After DCI report, it’s apparent that the Minnehaha Co State’s Attorney office needs a change in culture and leadership. Badly.

Someone might want to get in touch with Dean Wermer. Because it sure sounds like the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney’s office has been run like Delta House.

That’s a fun atmosphere if you’re a fraternity. But not so good if you’re a taxpayer funded county office.

If you haven’t read the Attorney General’s report on Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan, go do that now. Apparently you have to about stab someone to be removed from office, and case law backs that impression up.

Because the report provided by the Attorney General, as investigated by the Division of Criminal Investigation appears to be one of the most damning examples of an elected official’s bad behavior (that people were going to go on the record for) that anyone has ever seen in modern South Dakota history:

Keep in mind what is in the report is what people would go on the record for, including McGowan being “a very absent boss,” and people bringing alcohol to McGowan’s house during working hours at his request. Not to mention an incident with a female coworker where McGowan invited himself to her house to drink as a condition of her taking leave, and making her feel uncomfortable in the process.

And this stuff appears to be just what’s bubbling up to the surface.

I think we all get it that it appears as if he’s got some big issues with alcohol. And it’s good that he’s addressing them. But what about not showing up, claiming he’s overworked when he actually only had 4 cases at the time of his absence, not to mention that he thought going to a female subordinate’s house to drink was somehow appropriate?

As opposed to another term of office, as McGowan claimed he’s intending in an interview to KELOland, it sounds like the office needs new leadership and a complete change in office culture, badly.

One can’t help but question if there’s a correlation between a county office with bad morale and a party atmosphere which functions in spite of the boss, and the crime rate of Sioux Falls which has been cited as “soaring.”

After reading that report, while there might not be a clear cut legal basis for his removal based on case law, McGowan should absolutely forget running again.

And frankly given the substance of this report, he should give great consideration to resigning now.

38 thoughts on “After DCI report, it’s apparent that the Minnehaha Co State’s Attorney office needs a change in culture and leadership. Badly.”

  1. ha ha….but KELO-Bland told us everything is totally fine and nothing is wrong.

    What a joke. They always cover for their Democrat buddies.

    Angela Kennecke is a disgrace of a journalist


        I think the AG did a very balanced job, he eliminated some rumors such as no domestic valence, no call from the house

        He also listed a few items where office personnel said the office worked well.

        I thought it was balanced and fair where he gave McGowan’s side on a number of issues.

  2. This office is a scandal, agree. We need competent people fighting crime.

    But KELO is a scandal too. This bad actor expected KELO to cover for him because he’s a big Democrat and he was right! Sad.

  3. There are a lot of Democrats making the news decisions at KELO. Angela K only does “investigations” of Republicans dont cha know

  4. In reality there are always three sides to any story.
    The she side , the he side, and then the truth.
    It appears we have a Governor who drilled down into the truth and if some newscasters have to eat crow so be it.

  5. It looks to me like the AG did a thorough job and dispelled some rumors and exposed some other things.

    The Gov was right to release the report. It shows transparency to the public.

    The states attorney needs professional help and should resign.

  6. Angela at kelo doesn’t care about the sexual harassment of the underling I guess. If it was a Republican she’d make it a 5 month story. What a joke.

  7. KELO really screwed the pooch on this one, maybe literally. The libbies in Sioux Falls are going to have to go into some real damage control here. They need a fellow like Mr. E, and his roaddog grudznick, to sort this out for them. grudznick works for whoever buys the gravy taters.

  8. Three intro comments:

    1). FOE is rIght. The accusations against the Police Department warrant apologies.

    2). Nothing occurred or didn’t occur during the call which warrant investigation into McGowan.

    3). His absence from work for addiction treatment (if that is why) should not be cause for an investigation.

    That said, the items mentioned in the report regarding the operations of the office are as the Governor says are unsettling. Where in the heck is the County Commission? They need to determine the veracity of the charges and either exonerate McGowan or remove him. Their failure to deal with these things before (if true) is not a justification to CYA by doing nothing

    1. The SA is an elected position. The only control county commissions have over elected officials is the budget, and even then, that is very limited.

      1. Solid point. Let’s stop rehashing past errors and start discussing the future. We need a morally-strong, healthy, responsible, active State’s Attorney, one who’ll prosecute criminals and keep Sioux Falls safe. What kind of candidate? A patriot with an accredited law degree + multiple years of court experience. No professional misconduct, no felonies, no history of sex harassment. It should be someone who’s jailed criminals. Personally, I’d like someone with defense experience – who therefore has knowledge of both sides – but I guess that’s optional. I prefer someone born in S.D., but I’ll accept someone who’s lived here 12-15 years. This isn’t the right job for someone who arrived in 2018.

        Although commentators will surely disagree, I prefer a Republican. Regardless, it should be a lawyer who’ll function in harmony with our conservative AG and with Governor Noem. If we pick a progressive liberal socialist, we all but guarantee a clash. And Sioux Falls needs a prosecutor who’ll eradicate gang violence – that’s imperative. Personally, I want someone endorsed by law enforcement.

        1. Lynn’s comment are not solid.

          1) See my post down below. The County Commission had both the means to know something was’t right, they had an obligation to know it.

          2) Giving them the pass is the first step to repeating the mistake.

        2. How about someone with no political bias. An Independent thinker. Keep politics out of it. Just serve the people not a party.

  9. Crime is exploding in Sioux Falls and now we know why. A drunk liberal Democrat was in charge.

    1. Candy – Comments like this are exactly the problem! I’m so disappointed in the comments by a number of the regular posters on this site. Why can’t we talk about policy and procedure and not attack the person?

      Where is the compassion for this person and his family? It shouldn’t matter if he is a Democrat, Republican or any other party. He’s a person, who needs help and support. We’re all PEOPLE – not parties!

      Its easy to sit back and say things about people when you can’t put your name by it. Maybe that’s part of the problem here. Would you go up to Aaron McGowan and tell him you think he’s a drunk and should get fired? Doubtful.

      1. Kirsten – you knocked it out of the park. Both this forum and Dakota Free Press are seizing on this opportunity to shame his character. I agree, if true, the female allegation should be grounds for removal – that should be investigated.

        However, if this is a substance abuse issue, Candy – you’re comments are the root cause of why people do not seek help today. Stereotyping and labeling an addict accomplishes nothing but likely push that individual farther away from help. Republican or Democrat – this addiction and others impacts everyone, doesn’t matter if an R or D proceeds the name. If drunkenness were a standard for removal, our legislative seats would be empty during session.

        If you see someone struggling – dont call them a “drunk” – ask them how they’re doing – most of the time – people are just looking for someone to talk to.

      2. I would because any man saying a woman should buy him alcohol let him come to her house and drink with her while making her feel uncomfortable has no business being in management no matter what is position is.. he needs to resign… hoe can he or anyone defend that type of behavior? He cant

        1. I agree – thats why I think that needs to be investigated, and if substantiated, he should be removed or resign. I would think text messages or emails would likely prove or disprove that request.

          1. Will her part be included in this investigation? Why would she accept such and offer from a married, family man? That says a lot about her character. She should resign as well.

            1. Yikes… Way to blame the woman. It was pretty clear from the report that she asked to take the day off and SA McGowan at least heavily insinuated that she could do so only if he could come to her house and drink with her. That’s a clear violation of the supervisor/subordinate boundary. The only person at fault in that situation is McGowan.

              1. She could’ve easily said no. I’ve said it to men who have crossed a line. She holds some responsibility and to deny that is not being truthful. If she did it once, she’ll do it again. She and probably others should leave the office; it’s a toxic environment and it hurts the public.

        2. Why did she let him in the house????? Just don’t answer the door and don’t answer your phone. If you don’t want to drink with someone that is inebriated, avoid him.

            1. That’s weak. If she was to be fired over not buying alcohol and letting him into her home there would be a major lawsuit. She’d never have to work again and women know that in today’s culture they hold this type of power.

              1. Oh, yes. Because it’s always a woman’s responsibility, right? You’re the one making excuses, only you’re excusing employment harassment because you don’t know who the victim is.

  10. I am of two minds about this: one is, it’s bad, he hasn’t been very present even when he is physically there.
    The other is, I thought the best thing about working the night shift was that you seldom had to deal with anybody in management. An absent boss is like the greatest thing ever. Most self-motivated people are annoyed by managers, it was the underlying premise of “The Office” TV series. It wouldn’t have lasted 8 seasons if there hadn’t been so many people being driven crazy by their managers.

    For all the reports of him not being around much, I suspect the other people in the office didn’t mind or there would have been some complaining long before the police were called to his house.

  11. Lynne,

    Yes the position is an elected position and yes the primary power of the County Commission is the power of the purse. And, while you didn’t say it, yes, the primary removal powers is in the hands of the Governor.

    However, the County Commission in its judiciary duties to the taxpayers has an affirmative duty to monitor and assess the efficiency and conduct of operations in all County divisions run by elected officers (i.e. State’s Attorney, Sheriff, etc.). Otherwise, if they didn’t monitor and assess operations, how would they know whether they should be appropriating more or less money in the particular budget?

    If what was said is true (its now accusations to which McGowan hasn’t had a chance to repudiate (plus, I don’t know the depth of the AG’s investigation where they looked for corroboration and/or exculpatory evidence), and has been going on as long as it appears in the report, the County Commission has not done its most basic duty- acting as a fiduciary on behalf of the taxpayers.

    If they had performed this most basic duty, they’d have had knowledge of this situation and been able to pursue multiple remedies:

    1) Implore McGowan to go to treatment (they may have)
    2) If he didn’t go to treatment, put him on a work improvement plan.
    3) If he either refused the work improvement plan or failed to improve, they have the power under state law to go to the Governor and request his removal.

    If these charges are true, it never should have taken an incident like this to spur an investigation and assessment of the operations of the State’s Attorney Office to discover these problems. They are a fundamental implied obligation of the County under its appropriations responsibility.

    On a side note, if you go back to when this broke:

    1) I defended the police against the charges of a cover-up or otherwise doing something improper.

    2) I defended McGowan’s right of the nature of the call to be dealt with in private for two reasons. If it was medical, people have a right to deal with their medical issues in private.

    3) And, he has a right to deal with a personal issue after the call.

    4) I asserted we need to extend some privacy rights to public officials whose lives are in public eye (especially with regard to family members) or we the caliber of the people who will choose to serve will decline.

    I stand by all those positions today. Nothing I’ve learned as caused me to change my mind. However, if there has been long-term malfeasance or substandard performance which precedes the 911 call, I have absolutely no toleration for his continued employment and have an equal concern about the failure of the County Commission to do its job.

    1. Troy, first, county commissioners have no authority to tell an elected official he has to follow their idea of a “work improvement plan.” And if the county commission requested the governor act (keep in mind, we don’t know whether or not the did), the result is the same. The AG report is an accurate statement of the law, and the governor is not going to remove an SA (at least successfully) based on the information in that report, regardless of whether the commissioners request it. It is extremely difficult to remove an elected official. Personally, I think that is a good thing, especially in the cases of SA’s and sheriffs, who need the protection when it comes to making hard calls on whether to pursue charges against the powers that be, or powers that think they be.

  12. Lynne,

    1) The County Commission has no authority to force him to submit to a work improvement plan but they have the authority to request the Governor remove an elected officer.

    2) The State’s Attorney does not have to have broken a law to be removed. The Governor, if the charges are true as outlined, has the discretionary authority to make such a removal under SDCL 3-17-3.

    3) If requested by the County Commission, I would suspect such discretion would be more easily exercised.

    4) I agree State’s Attorneys need protection in the case of arbitrary removal. However, if the charges are true (there still is a presumption they may not be as McGowan has had no forum to respond) or sufficiently corroborated, the law doesn’t protect public officers for malfeasance or deriliction of duty. P.S. Drunkedness is a listed cause.

    To be clear Lynn. I defended McGowan, the first responders, the police protocol on this during this entire process and his absence afterword (which I presume is for some form of in-patient or out-patient treatment). And, as I said, all I said before I stand by it. Further, I think McGowan deserves a right to respond to them in a proper forum (I’d accept executive session before the County Commission, AG’s office and possibly a Judge).

    However, like the Governor, I am unsettled by items listed in the report unrelated to the call. And, if they are deemed true, I hold the County Commission equally (or maybe even more at fault) for failing to perform their basic fiduciary obligation to the taxpayers. The Budget of the SA is I would guess is one of the top three “departments” for which they provide funding. If they aren’t paying attention here, where are they paying attention?

  13. Who believes he didn’t get a chance to respond?

    Seems like the response tells his side also with some denials…

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