Names are coming Monday of S.D. senators who back special session to look at AG impeachment

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Names will be released Monday of state senators who want a special session of the South Dakota Legislature to consider whether the state attorney general should be impeached and barred from public office.

The announcement came Sunday from Senate president pro tem Lee Schoenbeck, the chamber’s top member.

There’s no word yet on whether the names of House members will be released.

The South Dakota Constitution requires either the governor to call a special session or a two-thirds majority of each chamber to convene a special session.

KELOLAND News filed a request with House Speaker Spencer Gosch and Schoenbeck seeking the names. Gosch previously said he wouldn’t release names. The thrust of the KELOLAND News argument is that the public can’t determine whether the two-thirds majorities requirement was met without the names.

Governor Kristi Noem has repeatedly called for Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to resign and called for his impeachment if he didn’t. Both are Republicans, as are more than two-thirds of the Legislature’s two chambers.

Ravnsborg was driving the car that hit and killed pedestrian Joe Boever along US 14 at the west edge of Highmore on the night of September 12, 2020.

Ravnsborg last month pleaded no-contest to two second-class misdemeanors. Retired Circuit Judge John Brown imposed maximum fines of $500 on each of them and also levied about $4,000 in court and investigation costs on Ravnsborg, who never appeared in court.

Last week the attorneys for widow Jennifer Boever confirmed that Ravnsborg had agreed to a settlement. Details weren’t released.

The impeachment session will look at whether Ravnsborg’s actions were impeachable offenses.

Said Schoenbeck in a statement Sunday, “The senators’ names that petitioned for a special session on the Attorney General impeachment issue will be released tomorrow by the Legislative Research Council. As I have made clear in the past, the petitioning senators are not expressing an opinion about the ultimate outcome of any potential proceeding, they are accommodating the House of Representatives request for a special session to be called by the legislature, rather than the executive branch.”

Added Schoenbeck, an attorney: “A number of senators were surprised that this was not automatically a public record.”

The special session on impeachment will begin on November 9. Lawmakers will already be at the Capitol for a special session on November 8 to draw new legislative-district boundaries for the next 10 years, starting with the 2022 elections.

For the impeachment session, Gosch wants a special committee to look at records. If they recommend impeachment, the House would debate whether to move forward. A simple majority of 36 in the 70-member House is required for impeachment. At that point, Ravnsborg would be suspended from his duties. The Senate then would conduct a trial, with a two-thirds majority required for conviction — 24 of the 35.

The Legislature has never before opened impeachment proceedings against an official.

Neither Gosch nor LRC director Reed Holwegner so far has responded to the KELOLAND News request for the names.

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