Impeachment proceedings into Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg will cost South Dakota taxpayers at least $87,000.
South Dakota House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Pierre, told the Argus Leader on Friday the House Select Committee on Investigation racked up $87,334 worth of attorney fees while it vetted Ravnsborg's conduct related to a fatal 2020 crash.
The committee this week issued a formal recommendation that the 45-year-old Republican should not face impeachment, but not until after a special counsel hired to assist the nine representatives guided them through 10 separate meetings and hundreds of documents, videos, recordings and other materials.
The special prosecutor hired in the case was Rapid City attorney Sara Frankenstein, a partner at Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore.
"That file was over 10,000 pages, not to mention how many hours of video and audio recordings," said the Speaker, who also served as committee chairman. "Her and her team did a thorough and meticulous job."
Frankenstein in an email Saturday said she personally logged 208 hours working with the House Select Committee on Investigation and a paralegal working under her also billed 84 hours, plus additional clerical work not reflected in those hours.
The work included researching and drafting memos on impeachment law and transcribing audio recordings of three different hearings held by the committee. Special software was also necessary to redact and index the investigation files and firewalling information from other staff and lawyers at Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore.
"I researched legal authority ranging from other states' impeachment procedure, court cases based on allegations of improper impeachment procedure, the potential crimes that may have been charged, and appropriate discovery tools," Frankenstein said.
It's unclear how much staff time the Legislative Research Council exerted for the committee, though Gosch noted the bulk of the meetings took place during a regular Legislative session.
The House of Representatives will meet April 12 to consider the Select Committee on Investigation's recommendation, outlined in a 22-page report released March 28. Articles of impeachment could also be introduced.
The report states the circumstances in the crash that killed 55-year-old Joe Boever in Hyde County on Sept. 12, 2020, did not amount to conduct deemed impeachable by a majority of the committee. A pair of Democrats on the committee issued a minority report in which they say Ravnsborg lied to law enforcement who investigated the crash.
Ravnsborg, who did not testify before the committee, maintains he did not know he'd struck a human on the night of the crash. If able to avoid impeachment, he is eligible for re-election this year.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: SD attorney general impeachment probe racks up $87K in attorney fees