Governor Noem Releases AG Report on Minnehaha County’s Top Prosecutor

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota’s Attorney General has completed his investigation into the extended absence of Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan. The investigation came at the request of Governor Kristi Noem. In a report released today by Noem, the attorney general lays out what led up to McGowan’s absence from work from July 13th to mid-September.

According to the Attorney General’s report, the first day of Arron Mcgowan’s absence, his family wanted to hold an intervention for alcohol, but he chose not to participate. Later that night, McGowan sent out a video message that was perceived to be a “suicide note video.” A concerned third party called police who went to McGowan’s home and deemed that he was not a threat to himself or others.    

The report says that at first McGowan did not inform his staff on why he was gone. Later attributing his absence to “medical leave.” However, the Attorney General says as an elected official, McGowan does not have “medical leave” or vacation time” like a regular employee.

Some members of the state’s attorney’s office also described McGowan as a “very absent” and “hands off boss and that the office ran well despite his absences. The Attorney General’s Office was not able to verify where McGowan was during his prolonged absence.

The report also lays out a history of alcohol-related allegations against McGowan brought forth by employees in the state’s attorney’s Office. One allegation being instances where McGowan was too drunk from the night before to drive to work the next day. McGowan has denied that allegation. Others allege seeing McGowan drunk at a state’s attorney’s conference. McGowan admitted to having a few drinks, attributing them to nerves over an introduction.

Another statement in the report outlines a situation where McGowan told a female employee that she could take a day off if she bought a bottle of alcohol and they could drink together at her home. The woman told investigators that McGowan did go to her home, made her uncomfortable at times, then left on a bicycle.

Governor Noem does have the authority to remove McGowan from office if he willfully neglects or fails to perform any of his duties, if he is guilty of being drunk or intoxicated, or if he has violated any law. Noem says the facts in this investigation are “unsettling,” but there isn’t enough evidence to pursue charges against McGowan and she will not be pursuing any further actions at this time. If he were to be removed from office, McGowan would have the right to a hearing.

Governor Noem released this statement:

“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.”


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