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South Dakota AG passes plane inquiry to accountability board

September 30, 2021 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota attorney general says a request from a state lawmaker to investigate Gov. Kristi Noem’s use of the state airplane should be handled by a board that’s responsible for reviewing allegations of misconduct from state officials.

Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba in February asked the attorney general to investigate whether Noem had violated South Dakota law by flying on the state airplane to events hosted by political organizations. Noem flew in state planes to 2019 events hosted by political organizations like the National Rifle Association, Turning Point USA, and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Noem had defended her travel to those events as part of her role as an “ambassador for the state” and said she has always used the plane according to state law. A voter-passed state law, spearheaded by Nesiba in 2006 before he was a legislator, stipulates that state-owned aircraft can only be used for state business.

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In a letter dated Tuesday, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he referred the request to the Government Accountability Board. If the four retired judges who sit on the board determine state laws were violated, they can request a criminal investigation.

Ravnsborg said in the letter that laws on state airplane use apply to the governor.