PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota state’s attorney has agreed to oversee the investigation in to Governor Kristi Noem’s possible misuse of state airplanes.
The Government Accountability Board referred Complaint No. 2021-04 to the Office of Attorney General in August. The complaint alleges Noem flew on state-owned airplanes to political events.
In a news release sent out Friday, acting Attorney General Mark Vargo announced the supervision of the investigation and any charging decisions will be undertaken by Jessica LaMie, the Hughes County State’s Attorney.
Tony Mangan, spokesman for the governor’s office, said Noem denies any wrongdoing in an emailed statement.
“As the Governor has said many times, she followed the law in both of these instances,” Mangan said, adding he’ll defer to Noem’s gubernatorial campaign statements on the issue.
LaMie has been serving as the Hughes County State’s Attorney since November 2020.
“The Division of Criminal Investigation will promptly review and investigate this matter. Gov. Noem
appointed Attorney General Vargo to his post in June. In order to avoid even the appearance of
impropriety, Attorney General Mark Vargo has requested that supervision of the investigation and any
charging decisions will be undertaken by Jessica LaMie, Hughes County State’s Attorney,” the release says. “LaMie has agreed to oversee the investigation. Because the investigation is on-going, the A.G.’s office will have no further comment and will not release any reports or evidence concerning the complaint until the
investigation is complete.”
LaMie told KCCR Radio in Pierre she learned about overseeing the DCI investigation of the complaint in advance of Vargo’s announcement on Friday. She also said she doesn’t believe her assistance in the investigation of the complaint will impact her regular duties prosecuting crimes in Hughes County.
She will make the decision after reviewing the investigation if charges should be brought or not.
“I swore an oath to uphold the laws and the Constitution of South Dakota,” LaMie said. “I swore an oath to uphold the laws and that’s what will be done in this case.”
Jamie Smith, the Democratic nominee challenging Noem, called for a special prosecutor to “investigate the extent to which Governor Noem engaged in misconduct.” Smith said he believes Vargo has been put in an awkward spot by the GAB sending a complaint back to the attorney general’s office.
The Noem campaign has said the GAB hasn’t pointed to a single law Noem has violated and has denied any wrongdoing.
When asked what law Noem broke, Smith responded he didn’t know.
“I don’t know if she broke one. That’s what this investigation is supposed to find,” Smith said. “I do know that we as South Dakotans would like to know where the airplane is going. It’s not a personal airplane. It’s the state’s airplane and it should be used for state business.”
Former AG Jason Ravnsborg initially sent the complaint regarding use of state planes to the GAB in Sept. 2021.