The leader of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety has apologized for inviting a political candidate to introduce a department event at the State Fair.
Trevor Jones, secretary of the DPS, issued a written apology Tuesday after the Rapid City Journal sought comment from a department spokesman.
On Sunday, at Jones’ invitation, Republican attorney general nominee Jason Ravnsborg introduced a Highway Patrol event at the State Fair in Huron. The Highway Patrol is part of the Department of Public Safety.
“Last Sunday at the State Fair, I ran into a candidate for Attorney General and on the spur-of-the-moment, invited him to introduce the Highway Patrol canine demonstration,” said Jones’ statement. “It was a lapse in judgment on my part and I apologize. It was not intended to demonstrate support for any particular candidate and should not reflect on the hard-working employees of the Department of Public Safety.”
Ravnsborg’s opponent, Democratic nominee Randy Seiler, brought attention to the incident with a news release on Monday.
“I find it disappointing and alarming that leadership within the Department of Public Safety used extremely poor judgment in politicizing a State Fair event, the Department of Public Safety, and the Highway Patrol,” the release said. “Doing so put on-duty law enforcement officers in an uncomfortable and compromising situation.”
Jones also sent a letter of apology Tuesday to Seiler. That did not dissuade Seiler from contacting the current attorney general, Marty Jackley, and the state’s attorney of Beadle County (which includes Huron) to request an investigation into the incident.
Seiler said the incident may have constituted a violation of South Dakota Codified Law 12-27-20, which prohibits the use of public funds to influence the election of any candidate. Seiler said he also plans to file a complaint with the state Government Accountability Board.
Ravnsborg has so far not returned messages seeking comment, but he did post comments about the incident Monday on his social media accounts.
"I had the honor of introducing some of our state's finest law enforcement officers as they put on a demonstration regarding their K-9 units," Ravnsborg wrote on Facebook. "THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME AND ALL THAT YOU DO!"
Seiler and Ravnsborg are running in the Nov. 6 general election to succeed Jackley, who is term-limited.