By STEPHEN GROVES – Associated Press
SIOUX FALLS, SD (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem faces a lawsuit after her office refused to release expense reports for five out-of-state trips this year to a watchdog group liberal.
American Oversight, an organization that files open case requests and litigation against Republican officials, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Noem, who is in the midst of a re-election campaign and is considering a bid for the 2024 presidential ticket from the GOP. He alleges that the governor’s office failed to follow the state’s open records law in saying releasing the records would create a security threat to the governor.
In May, the organization requested statements of expenses, including accommodation and travel, for 2022 trips Noem took to a hunting convention in Las Vegas, two Republican Party events in Wyoming, and in New York, at the Conservative Political Action Conference and at a campaign event for Republican U.S. Senator Mike Lee in Utah.
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American Oversight also said the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation did not respond to its request for records for legal fees associated with negotiating a $200,000 settlement agreement with a former government employee, Sherry Bren. She had filed an age discrimination complaint after being forced into retirement by Marcia Hultman, Noem’s secretary of labor. Hultman began seeking Bren’s retirement in the weeks after Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, obtained her real estate appraiser’s license – a process in which Noem took on a hands-on role.
“We have asked Governor Noem to disclose what some high-profile cases have cost South Dakota, specifically for his travel expenses and costs related to his involvement in his daughter’s real estate licensing,” said Heather Sawyer, executive director of American Oversight. “South Dakota law requires disclosure of public spending and the public has the right to see how Governor Noem spends his money.”
As Noem rose to national prominence in the GOP and traveled the country speaking at events, she faced intense scrutiny of the costs of her trip, including investigations into what it costs taxpayers to keep him safe at out-of-state campaign events. Noem’s office declined to release these charges, saying it would threaten his safety.
She is too facing an investigation whether the use of a government-owned aircraft to travel to 2019 events organized by political organizations was a legal use of the aircraft. Noem championed the trips as part of her job as an “ambassador” for the state. She did not use any state-owned aircraft on the 2022 trips.
The governor’s office and the Department of Labor and Regulation did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.
Ian Fury, spokesperson for Noem’s campaign, said in a statement: “This is a baseless political attack by a militant liberal organisation. They have no interest in the truth. Their tactics are typical of election year propaganda.
He did not answer when asked whether Noem’s political funds paid for expenses such as accommodation when she traveled to political events.
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