S.D. House panel’s use of closed session appears legal under S.D. law

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A question about the House Select Committee on Investigation as it considered whether to recommend impeachment of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg: Was it legal to hold nearly all of the two-day meeting behind closed doors?

State law specifically allows for executive or closed meetings in certain circumstances and this situation appeared to fit two of them.

Among them: “Discussing the qualifications, competence, performance, character or fitness of any public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee. The term, employee, does not include any independent contractor.”

Another: “Consulting with legal counsel or reviewing communications from legal counsel about proposed or pending litigation or contractual matters.”

The committee met with its legal counsel, Sara Frankenstein, to discuss whether to recommend that Ravnsborg should be removed from office via impeachment and conviction as defined by the South Dakota Constitution.

The committee chairman, House Speaker Spencer Gosch, issued a news release Tuesday night after the conclusion of that day’s work. It said no official action was taken and two items were discussed. They were:

“Review the law regarding grounds for impeachment and the directions provided by House Resolution 7001.

“Begin a review of the large investigative file produced by the Department of Public Safety in order to start the committee’s independent review of the evidence.”

The panel was still in closed session as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.

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