PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — House Republican leader Kent Peterson said Thursday he wants the South Dakota Legislature to call itself into special session to consider whether to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
The House considered a resolution in the regular session that was deferred by House Speaker Spencer Gosch because Ravnsborg was still facing three second-class misdemeanor charges for a September 12 crash at the west edge of Highmore. That night, the car Ravnsborg was driving struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever, who was walking on the north shoulder of US 14.
Ravnsborg, a Republican, pleaded no-contest last month to improper lane change and using an electronic device while driving. Retired Circuit Judge John Brown sentenced Ravnsborg to the maximum fine of $500 on each charge. A third misdemeanor for careless driving was dropped as part of a deal.
Peterson’s Thursday announcement came on Gosch’s letterhead. The Legislature needs two-thirds of its senators and two-thirds of its representatives to sign a petition for a special session.
Gosch received the investigation file from Governor Kristi Noem after Ravnsborg’s pleas. The Republican governor has repeatedly called for Ravnsborg’s resignation and said he should be impeached if he doesn’t step down.
Ravnsborg also was arrested for speeding a few days before his August 26 trial date. He was caught driving 57 mph in a 35 mph zone on Pierre’s east side. He sent his defense attorney, Tim Rensch, to enter the Boever-related pleas and never appeared in a courtroom regarding the crash or speeding.
A majority of the 70 House members would need to vote for impeachment. The 35 senators would then hold a trial and need a two-thirds majority to remove him from the $121,449 post to which he was elected in 2018.
House Democrat leader Jamie Smith joined Peterson as co-sponsors of the original resolution that freshman Representative Will Mortenson brought. Smith backed Peterson’s call for the special session Thursday. “We are working together in a nonpartisan manor to ensure a fair and just outcome. We are taking this responsibility very seriously,” Smith said.
Gosch, as speaker, presides over the House. “If the call to special session is successful, I intend to appoint a committee to investigate matters involving Attorney General Ravnsborg. It is important to note that the Legislature is not (equipped) to, nor does not intend to retry criminal matters. The constitution is clear on what our role is.” Gosch said, referencing Article 16 of the South Dakota Constitution. “The process will be fair, thorough, and transparent.”
Said Peterson, “Before we concluded the session in March, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution that stated we may evaluate the matter pertaining to the Attorney General when the judicial process was completed. Since that process has finished, I am asking that the legislature convene to start the formal process of investigating the matter surrounding Attorney General Ravnsborg.”
The attorney general’s personal spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The attorney general issued news releases with his explanations of proposed ballot measures on ingestion and possession of a controlled substance Thursday at about the same as the Peterson-Gosch-Smith investigation statement went out.
This is a developing story.