Maybe the Legislature will make its impeachment Special Session a two-fer….
Kassidy Peters is a real estate appraiser. She moved her business from Pierre to Watertown just this summer. But she hit a speed bump on the way to her career in July 2020 when the head of South Dakota’s appraiser certification program, Sherry Bren, denied her application. Fortunately, Kassidy’s mom knew how to smooth out that rough patch.
Kassidy’s mom is Governor Kristi Noem, who called Bren, Kassidy, and a few other people to her office for a lengthy meeting:
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.”
Besides Noem and Peters, Bren said the meeting included Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman; Bren’s supervisor; the governor’s general counsel; and, participating by telephone, Noem’s chief of staff and a lawyer from the state’s Department of Labor and Regulation.
Bren remembered it lasting close to an hour and including questions from Noem on how certification works [Stephen Groves, “As Daughter Sought State License, Noem Summoned Agency Head,” AP, 2021.09.27].
Noem and her spinsters are responding with a lot of baloney, but no spin in the world can make anyone think the meeting described above was appropriate. An agency head at least two steps down from the Governor makes a professional decision pertaining to an appraisal applicant who happens to be the Governor’s daughter. No normal applicant in this situation would ever get a special meeting with that agency head in the Governor’s Office, never mind a meeting within days of an application denial. No normal applicant would get to take such a leap over the proper chain of command and complaint: contact the agency head, ask for information; if dissatisfied, contact the agency head’s supervisor—in this case, the Secretary of Labor—who would call the agency head and ask for information about the situation…. No normal applicant would probably go even that far; a normal applicant would just grumble a bit, then fix up her papers and reapply.
But this applicant, Kassidy Noem Peters, got her mom, Governor Kristi Noem, to call the offending agency head into her office to be surrounded by the Governor, her aggrieved daughter, the Secretary of Labor, two state lawyers, and the Governor’s chief of staff. No wonder Kristi needs such a big desk—she needs room for all of her star chamber to sit and glower at the hapless functionaries who don’t rubber-stamp whatever her kin are applying for.
This meeting should not have been happening in the Governor’s office, and the only person who should have been at it was the Secretary of Labor, one on one with her subordinate, finding out the facts. There’s no formal complaint, so the applicant shouldn’t be in the room, not at this first meeting. There’s no litigation happening, so there’s no need for lawyers. There’s nothing relating to the Governor’s schedule or policy initiatives, the the Governor’s chief of staff is totally in the wrong room.
And the applicant is the Governor’s daughter. Any discussion of that daughter’s application for any state license should be held in a Kristi-proof room as far from the Second Floor as practical. The Governor shouldn’t even know such a discussion is happening, let alone have any knowledge of or participation in that discussion.
But Governor Noem did intervene. She saw to it that Bren received at that meeting a letter from Peters’s boss railing against Bren and saying Peters deserved certification. And four months later, after Peters finally got her appraiser certification, Bren got canned. Bren complained, and the state paid her $200,000 to shut up:
Bren’s troubles began to mount almost immediately after Peters’ Nov. 25 certification. One day earlier, Hultman had called Bren to discuss “concerns about the Appraiser Certification Program,” according to Bren’s age discrimination complaint. On Dec. 1, the complaint alleged, Hultman called Bren to demand her retirement, saying she had shown an “inability to change gears.”
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.
Bren filed her age discrimination complaint at the end of December and, three months later, received the $200,000 settlement agreement to withdraw the complaint and leave her job [Groves, 2021.09.27].
Kassidy now joins her husband Kyle and her sister Kennedy as recipients of her mother’s executive favoritism. This kind of nepotism is illegal in other states. Such corrupt conduct could be grounds for impeaching our Governor, but those are just words in South Dakota, not meant to interfere with favors for kin of the one-party regime. In South Dakota, government corruption is a way of life… and, as Bren discovered, a way to unemployment for those who dare upset the gravy train.
Related Reading: The Association of Appraiser Regulatory Officials noted Bren’s “retirement” with kind words on March 26:
Sherry Bren has left her position as the Executive Director of the South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program and has retired from the State of South Dakota effective March 26, 2021. AARO would like to wish Sherry Bren well as she takes on new endeavors and enjoys the retirement life. Sherry has been a staple in the Appraiser profession and with AARO [AARO, “South Dakota Loses a Remarkable Asset,” AARO.net, 2021.03.26].
According to Open.SD.Gov (the most ironically named website in South Dakota), Sherry Bren’s final wage was $26.95 an hour. Her $200,000 settlement from the state equals more than 7,421 hours, or 3.7 years of work. That’s a heck of a severance package for someone who, in the July 27, 2020, meeting with the Governor, was called “inefficient” and “unprofessional.”
The state still hasn’t gotten around to scrubbing Bren’s name from its appraiser certification program website:
Kassidy Peters had a website up for her appraisal business on Friday, according to the Google cache; since Groves broke this story, kassidypetersappraisalllc.appraiserxsites.com has gone 404.