Lee Strubinger gets more details on Governor Kristi Noem’s apparently spiteful ouster of South Dakota’s Appraiser Certification Program director, Sherry Bren. It sounds like Governor Noem was so miffed at Bren’s sensible handling of Noem’s daughter Kassidy Peters’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser that she booted Bren without any effort to preserve the institutional knowledge Bren had accumulated over her 30-year career of building South Dakota’s appraiser certification program from scratch:
“I have been forced to retire by the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Regulation [Marcia Hultman] at the behest of the Administration,” Bren’s email said.
“The Administration has made it clear that it does not see a value to my experience, my involvement in ongoing projects or in a transfer of any of my extensive institutional knowledge and connections,” Bren’s email continued.
…Bren was the executive director of the program that certifies, licenses and registers appraisers in the state. She held that position from March 1991 until she left the position earlier this year.
…In 1989, Congress passed a banking reform act that required every state in the union to follow a uniform standard of appraisal….
Bren was hired to create the South Dakota program that oversees all aspects of appraiser certification [Lee Strubinger, “Noem Administration Pays $200,000 to Settle Allegation of Age Discrimination,” SDPB Radio, 2021.09.28].
Strubinger reports that Bren was also managing a $120,000 grant from the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council to “address appraiser shortages by creating an appraiser training program that will satisfy the Appraiser Qualifications Board experience requirements for trainees to become licensed or certified trainers.” Strubinger reports Bren wanted to work through 2022 to establish that training program. The status of that grant and program under Noem with Bren booted is unknown.
This grant indicates that, while Noem’s office is trying to spin its canning of Bren (and the office has not denied that canning, or the involvement of the Governor in her daughter’s appraiser application) as cutting “bureaucratic red tape” to foster “economic growth”, dedicated bureaucrat Bren was bringing extra money to the state to support actual training and certification of more appraisers to help business move faster in South Dakota. (Plus, the state spent the equivalent of 167% of that grant to get Bren to settle her age discrimination complaint and never seek state work again: $75K to Bren in back pay, $75K to Bren for “non-wages and personal injury damages”, and $50K to Bren’s lawyers at Johnson, Pochop, and Bartling.)
The record shows other evidence that Bren was performing her job attentively. Bren’s office reported 112 disciplinary actions (see Appendix E, p. 64) against South Dakota appraisers from 2011 through 2020. That’s higher than the number of reported disciplinary actions in seventeen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It thus appears that Bren was keeping an eye on the appraisers she certified.
The last time the ASC reviewed South Dakota’s compliance with federal regs for appraisers, in August 2018 (see p. 75), the ASC rated our appraiser certification program “Good,” along with Minnesota and eight other states. Only six states, including North Dakota, out of the 21 reviewed in 2018 scored “Excellent”, the next level up and the highest possible in ASC’s rubric. But “Good” is good enough to mean that the state was meeting a majority of Title XI mandates, had only minor deficiencies, and was correcting those deficiencies.
That’s the experience, skill, and desire to serve that Governor Kristi Noem threw away, all because her daughter Kassidy didn’t get her appraiser’s certification fast enough. That kind of pettiness is costing this state talent, money, and possibly economic development.