Noem releases attorney general’s report on Minnehaha State’s Attorney

PIERRE, S.D. - On Wednesday, Gov. Kristi Noem released an attorney general report detailing an investigation into Minnehaha State's Attorney Aaron McGowan's absences from work.

(MGN/Minnehaha County)

In the release, Noem stated: “Recent events involving Minnehaha State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan necessitated an investigation by our Attorney General,” said Noem. “That investigation is now complete, and I am making the summary provided to me available to the public for the sake of transparency. The facts that were uncovered are unsettling. The Attorney General concludes that there isn’t the evidence to pursue charges against McGowan. I will not be pursuing any further action at this time. I am thankful for the Attorney General and his team’s swift work on this matter.”

According to the report, McGowan was absent from the Minnehaha State's Attorney Office from July 13, 2019 to mid-September 2019 and stated McGowan claimed he was on medical leave. The report stated "as an elected official, McGowan does not have medical leave or vacation time like a regularly hired employee.

The reported also stated the investigation was unable to verify where McGowan was during the time periods covering his absence from the office.

The report also detailed interviews with several members of Minnehaha State's Attorney Office. According to the report, some members stated McGowan was "a very absent boss."

Some members also stated McGowan would send Snapchat messages throughout the day saying "bar?" indicating that they should go to the bar to drink. According to the report, McGowan stated that these "bar?" messages were meant as a joke and intended to relieve stress when some days were hectic.

Other members of Minnehaha State's Attorney Office stated that McGowan was, at times, too inebriated to drive to work and would ask employees to bring him to work.

The report also indicated there was not enough evidence to charge McGowan. KSFY News contacted McGowan's office and requested a response to the report and have not received a return call.

Noem called for an investigation into McGowan's extended absence back in September. In a letter to South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, Noem said: "Due to these media reports, the public information that has been disseminated, and several inquiries into the Office of the Governor, our Office formally request an investigation into this matter."

In her letter, Noem also cited: SDCL 3-17-3, the governor has the power and duty to remove officials who “willfully fail, neglect, or refuse to perform any of the duties imposed upon him by, or to enforce any of the provisions of law relating to intoxicating liquors, or who shall willfully fail, neglect, or refuse to perform any duties imposed upon them by law, or who shall be guilty of intoxication or drunkenness, or who shall be guilty of the violation of any law, or who shall assist or connive in the violation of any law, or who shall be grossly incompetent to perform the duties of his office."