PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Her media office hasn’t yet put out a news release about it, but Governor Kristi Noem has quietly ordered all agencies and offices under her control to add language to their contracts, so that state legislators know they would be violating the South Dakota Constitution if they do business with state government.
The Republican governor issued the executive order on Friday. It comes in the wake of Republican Sen. Jessica Castleberry accepting more than $603,000 in COVID-19 relief payments from state government to her childcare business.
The governor notified state Attorney General Marty Jackley about Castleberry. He has been working to recover the money. Noem had appointed Castleberry on December 31, 2019, to a vacant Senate seat. After the scandal surfaced, Castleberry said she wouldn’t seek re-election to a third term.
The South Dakota Supreme Court in 2020 issued a special advisory opinion requested by Noem. She specifically wanted to know whether the South Dakota Constitution or any state law prohibits a current legislator from being eligible to receive funds from a coronavirus relief fund program.
The state’s high court in its answer pointed to Article III, section 12 of the South Dakota Constitution that specifically says legislators can’t “during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within one year thereafter, be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state or any county thereof, authorized by any law passed during the term for which he shall have been elected.”
The four participating justices unanimously agreed. “This Court strictly interprets the language of South Dakota Article III, (section) 12. Its prohibitions are broad in scope and extend to any contract between a legislator and the State, including the General Appropriations Bill,” the justices stated.
Noem’s new executive order also suggests that other executive offices outside her control, as well as the two other branches of state government, namely the Legislature and the judiciary, and county governments too, should review their processes and procedures “to ensure any contract is executed in accordance with Article 3, Section 12 of the South Dakota Constitution.”
Last week, Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck suggested to the Legislature’s Executive Board that they develop some sort of guidance for current legislators and future candidates. Schoenbeck indicated an expectation that news stories about other legislators’ contracts would soon surface.