By the way, Lee Strubinger does us the favor of posting the complete settlement that the state and Sherry Bren agreed to last March to end her age discrimination complaint. That document lists all of the conditions, including the non-disparagement clause that Stephen Groves mentioned when he broke this latest story of Kristi Noem’s nepotism yesterday. Bren cited that non-disparagement clause as her reason for holding back some details of the completely inappropriate meeting to which the Governor summoned her last summer to complain about her daughter’s not receiving her real estate appraiser certification.
But the non-disparagement clause does not appear to limit Bren’s disclosure of details from that fateful meeting:
6.1—Non-disparagement. The parties and their attorneys further agree not to communicate any disparaging information about the State of South Dakota and the Department of Labor and Regulation or their elected officials, former officials, employees, former employees, or agents, or Bren, in relation to Bren’s employment with the Department of Labor and Regulation, resignation/retirement, and this action, either verbally or in writing, in any public forum, including but not limited to any traditional media outlets, or social media forums such as Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, or similar form of social media, or by way of blogs [yes! I made it!], audio/video cases, podcasts, or any other internet websites, and/or other mass public digital communications of any kind except for the underlying facts regarding her employment, acknowledgement that the action has been resolved, and the specific terms of the settlement as stated in this Settlement Agreement and Release. Disparagement means the publication of false statements that are derogatory of another’s property, decisions, business, or governance, or the act or an instance of unfairly castigating or detracting from the reputation of someone or something [emphasis mine; Settlement Agreement and Release, signed by Sherry Bren 2021.03.31 and Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman 2021.04.01; posted in Lee Strubinger, “Noem Administration Pays $200,000 to Settle Allegation of Age Discrimination,” SDPB Radio, 2021.09.28].
This agreement says disparagement involves false statements. If Bren says exactly what happened at the July 27, 2020, meeting in the Governor’s Office, if she produces a faithful transcript of every word the Governor, her daughter, her chief of staff, her lawyer, her Labor Secretary, and her Labor Secretary’s lawyer said to her and everything Bren herself said in response, Bren is not committing disparagement.
Ms. Bren, I welcome your further public statements about the corruption you witnessed in the Governor’s Office in the process of your firing. Your honest account of this corruption will serve the public interest in understanding and, we hope, eradicating the corruption that has taken hold in Pierre. And as long as your account is honest, the state can’t take back your settlement money.