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South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem May Have Engaged In Tiniest Spot Of Nepotism, Probably No Big Deal
She did it for you, America! (And also for her kid. Allegedly!)
South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem isn't one for subtlety. Just days after her daughter Kassidy Peters was denied a real estate appraisers license by the state's Department of Labor and Regulation, Noem hauled Sherry Bren, the manager of the Appraiser Certification Program, her direct supervisor, and state Secretary of Labor Marcia Hultman into her office for a meeting to discuss "appraiser certification procedures."
In case that wasn't clear enough, Noem's daughter was in the room, too.
AP broke the story of what appears to be blatant impropriety if not outright corruption by GOP darling Noem, whose name has been bruited about as a possible 2024 GOP presidential or vice presidential candidate.
According to the AP, Peters began a trainee program in 2016 and submitted her application to become a fully certified real estate appraiser in September 2019. Her application was rejected in July, after which shit hit the fan with Gov. Noem.
Bren, who had directed the Appraiser Certification Program for three decades, told the AP that she received a text on July 26 from her supervisor telling her to be at the governor's office the next morning, ready to discuss "appraiser certification procedures."
At the meeting, Bren was presented with a letter from Peters's trainee supervisor stating that she disagreed with the certification denial and accusing Bren's department of "inefficient process." This is wildly corrupt, irrespective of whether or not Noem actually ordered the department to grant her daughter the license. Although that is exactly what they did, issuing Peters a full license four months later.
You might be wondering why Peters's application was denied in the first place. Was she just bad at appraising? We don't know, but the AP quotes the state's own procedures, explaining that such applications are "denied when an applicant's work samples don't meet minimum compliance with national standards." So that may explain that. But maybe national appraisal standards have a well known liberal bias!
Anyway, that wasn't the end of the story, because immediately after Peters got her certificate, Labor Secretary Hultman called up Bren and told her it was time to retire, according to an age discrimination complaint Bren filed after being pushed out. And despite Hultman's admonition to keep the phone calls on the DL, she left an extensive paper trail, all of which is discoverable under state FOIA laws. Doh!
Hultman told Bren that the phone call was to be kept a secret from her direct supervisor to make it appear Bren's retirement was her choice, the complaint alleged.
Over the ensuing weeks, Hultman did not yield in demanding a retirement date, even after Bren asked if there was any way to keep her job, emails obtained by the AP show.
"I have been forced to retire by the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Regulation at the behest of the Administration," Bren wrote to colleagues in an email obtained by the AP, adding, "I want each of you to know that I have sincerely done everything possible to avoid this unfortunate circumstance."
The complaint was eventually settled after the state agreed to pay Bren $200,000. And Noem's office would very much like it to end there — or at least to paint this whole shitpile as something the liberal media deposited on her doorstep.
"The Associated Press is disparaging the Governor's daughter in order to attack the Governor politically – no wonder Americans' trust in the media is at an all-time low," her spokesman Ian Fury snarked, before adding that the governor was simply trying to protect South Dakota consumers by ensuring that they have access to the very best appraisers in all the land.
"Having more quality appraisers in the market will help keep our housing market moving and home prices down," he added.
For her part, Hultman denied any favoritism, insisting it was totally normal for a license applicant to sit in on agency meetings in the governor's office.
"Kassidy Peters went through the same process as other appraisers. There was no denial," she told the AP. "Mrs. Peters completed the requirements to become licensed, and she was subsequently certified in November."
Ya, sure, you betcha.
[ AP ]
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