PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Nine representatives, all men, began gathering again this week at the South Dakota Capitol, trying to decide whether or not they should recommend that the state House take a step never done before — move forward on the possible impeachment of a statewide elected official.
The House Select Committee on Investigation planned to close the doors of room 362 to the public on Monday evening and begin privately making decisions on what information the public should get to see about state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
The lawmakers are looking into the September 12, 2020, crash, at the west edge of Highmore, where the personal Ford Taurus driven by Ravnsborg struck and killed Joe Boever of Highmore, as Boever was walking that night along the north shoulder of U.S. 14, from his pickup truck back into town.
Ravnsborg told a 911 dispatcher that night he didn’t know what he had hit. The body of Boever was found the next morning by Ravnsborg when he returned the Hyde County sheriff’s private vehicle. Prosecutors charged Ravnsborg with three second-class misdemeanors: driving outside his lane; operating an electronic device while driving; and careless driving. He never appeared in court on the charges.
At one point, Ravnsborg’s defense attorney suggested in court that Boever jumped into the road. In a negotiation, Ravnsborg agreed to have his attorney plead no-contest to the lane violation and electronic device violation, in exchange for dropping careless driving. Ravnsborg later settled out of court with Boever’s widow; details weren’t disclosed.
The committee plans to take testimony from South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming crash investigators on Tuesday and Wednesday, starting each day at 3:30 p.m., in room 414 of the Capitol, the largest committee room the Legislature has. The House voted 58-10 on November 9, 2021, in a special session to proceed establishing a committee to recommend whether Ravnsborg should be impeached.
For impeachment, the South Dakota Constitution sets a threshold of a simple majority of House members, currently 36. If Ravnsborg is impeached, he would be suspended from office until the conclusion of a Senate trial. A Senate conviction requires a two-thirds majority, currently 24, and would bar Ravnsborg from holding “any office of trust or profit in the state.”
So who are the nine who will deliver the recommendation to the other 61 House members?
Representative Doug Barthel, age 60. Republican. Lives in Sioux Falls. Retired police chief. Sixth year as a legislator. Voted yes in special session to appoint the committee.
Representative Ryan Cwach, age 35. Democrat. Lawyer from Yankton. Fourth year as a legislator. Voted yes in special session to appoint the committee.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch, age 37. Republican. Farmer and rancher/insurance agent, from Glenham in Walworth County. Sixth year as a legislator. Voted yes in special session to appoint the committee. Appointed committee, serves as chair, so far hasn’t voted on a committee matter.
Representative Jon Hansen, age 37. Republican. House speaker pro tem. Lawyer from Dell Rapids. Seventh year as a legislator. Voted yes in special session to appoint the committee.
Representative Steven Haugaard, age 65. Republican. Previous House speaker. Lawyer from Sioux Falls. Eighth year as a legislator. Voted no in special session on appointing the committee.
Representative Kevin Jensen, age 67. Republican. Business owner from Canton. Sixth year as a legislator. Voted yes in special session to appoint the committee.
Representative Kent Peterson, age 41. Republican. Farmer and rancher from Salem. House majority leader. Eighth year as a legislator. Drafted petition seeking November 9, 2021, special session to consider investigating Ravnsborg. Voted yes in special session to appoint the committee. Co-sponsored resolution in 2021 regular session that originally called for impeachment of Ravnsborg.
Representative Jamie Smith, age 50. Democrat. Real estate agent from Sioux Falls. House minority leader. Sixth year as a legislator. Voted yes in special session to appoint the committee. Co-sponsored resolution in 2021 regular session that originally called for impeachment of Ravnsborg.
Representative Mike Stevens, age 68. Republican. Lawyer from Yankton. Eighth year as a legislator. Voted yes in special session to appoint the committee.
Ravnsborg, 45, is starting his fourth year of his first four-year term at attorney general. The former Yankton resident received the Republican nomination at the South Dakota GOP convention in 2018, defeating then-state Senator Lance Russell and Lawrence County state’s attorney John Fitzgerald. He then defeated the Democrat nominee, former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler.
Marty Jackley, who was term-limited as attorney general in 2018, ran for governor in the Republican primary election and lost to then-U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem. Jackley, who continues to live in Pierre, has announced he will seek the Republican nomination for attorney general again this summer.