PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Two top members of the House panel that will recommend whether South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should be impeached wouldn’t say Thursday whether their group has talked about calling him to testify.
House Republican leader Kent Peterson of Salem and House Democrat leader Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls, who are members of the House Select Committee on Investigation, responded to a question from KELOLAND News during their weekly legislative news conferences.
“No decisions have been made,” said Peterson. He sponsored the petition to call the Legislature into special session on the matter in November.
“I know there’s been communications back and forth, but we’ll see what comes of that,” Peterson continued. “Obviously if that is something we think would be important to do, we can do that as the time comes. But it’s a decision of the committee and not one individual on the committee.”
Ravnsborg is under scrutiny for a deadly crash. On the night of September 12, 2020, the car Ravnsborg was driving struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever along US 14 at the west edge of Highmore.
Hyde County deputy state’s attorney Emily Sovell announced on February 18, 2021, that Ravnsborg faced three misdemeanor traffic charges. Ravnsborg initially had his defense attorney, Timothy Rensch, plead that he was not-guilty. Rensch eventually entered no-contest pleas on August 26, 2021, to driving outside the traffic lane and to operating an electronic device while driving. Ravnsborg never appeared in court on the charges.
The House of Representatives voted 58-10 on November 9, 2021, to create the committee to investigate whether Ravnsborg’s conduct surrounding the death of Boever involved impeachable offenses as defined by the South Dakota Constitution.
The panel spent more than eight hours listening to testimony from South Dakota and North Dakota law enforcement officials and a Wyoming crash reconstruction expert Tuesday and Wednesday. Members have been tight-lipped about how they’re dealing with the first impeachment in South Dakota history.
“At this point, I’m not going to get into the details of necessarily some of those discussions,” Smith said Thursday. “We’re not limiting our scope in any way, shape or form who we will call and who we will ask to speak to.”
Smith said committee members asked “lots and lots of questions” the two previous days that came from their review of the material in the case. “I will say that I think through answers to those questions, those bring up more questions in the process. So this process is not over in any way, shape or form, and we will continue to do the work until we’re done.”
When the committee will make its report and recommendation to the House isn’t clear yet, Smith said. “So I can’t tell you who exactly we’re going to call, if we’re going to call anybody. But I know that I believe there are more questions that came out of these hearings that deserve answers, and we will be going down that line.”
Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has repeatedly called for the resignation of Ravnsborg, a Republican, and urged the House to look at impeachment if he didn’t step down. Her lieutenant governor, Larry Rhoden, told reporters Thursday it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the possible impeachment because the Senate would potentially have to hold a trial. Rhoden is Senate president.
If a majority of House members votes to impeach, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority of 24 to convict Ravnsborg and permanently bar him from office.