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House begins investigation on Ravnsborg

Ahead of the special legislative session to determine if South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should be impeached, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the South Dakota Newspaper Association filed a lawsuit to the state Supreme Court.

The two newspapers filed a joint suit against House Speaker Spencer Gosch, who won’t release the names of the House members that signed a petition to bring a special session.

The South Dakota Supreme Court sided with House Speaker Spencer Gosch, who said that the names of the legislators that voted in favor of the impeachment hearings are irrelevant. He also said that two-thirds of the House members signed the petition.

“As unfortunate as Speaker Gosch’s shielding this information from the public is, for the state’s highest court to allow and encourage opaque government is dumbfounding,” Argus Leader news director Cory Myers told the Associated Press.

The special session on the impeachment of Ravnsborg began Nov. 9. On that day, the House voted to launch an investigation into the crash and Ravnsborg’s conduct surrounding the crash that left one person dead and formed a committee to undertake the investigation.

The House committee’s first objective is to review the state’s constitution to determine if there are grounds to lead to Ravnsborg’s impeachment. The constitution says that officials like the attorney general can be impeached for “corrupt conduct, malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.”

South Dakota has never impeached a state official before. A committee of seven Republicans and two Democrats will prepare a report for the House to recommend whether Ravnsborg should be impeached. 

Following the special session Nov. 9, the House committee decided to hire a legal counsel to guide the committee’s investigation. The committee’s first meeting Wednesday, Nov. 10 was to review state law on impeachments. In this meeting, it was determined that no further action with the committee will take place until an attorney is hired to guide the committee.

The investigation is anticipated to take months, according to the AP. Republican Rep. Will Mortenson was the first to call for Ravnsborg’s impeachment in February, and also pushed for public access to materials the committee reviews. The House agreed with an exception for redacted confidential and “nonrelevant information.”