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Hultman Says Noem’s Mansion Bullying of Bren Wasn’t Pressure; GOP Senators Buy That Bull

Part-time Governor Kristi Noem and largely idle First Gent Bryon Noem are handing out treats at the Governor’s Mansion this evening from 5 to 6:30. “It may be a bit chilly out, so be sure to dress warmly,” the Governor warns.

Imagine how chilly Appraiser Certification Program chief Sherry Bren found the Governor’s Mansion when she was summoned there on July 27, 2020, to be chastised for getting in the way of the Governor’s daughter’s real estate appraiser certification.

The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee met Thursday to hear about that scandalous meeting and the Governor’s audacious intervention in her daughter’s struggle to meet federal appraiser standards. We learned that the meeting took place in the Governor’s residence, not in her Capitol office as the original September 27 AP reporting indicated. We learned that the meeting involved not one but two lawyers from the Department of Labor and Regulation, along with the Governor, her chief of staff, her lawyer, her Labor Secretary, and, most alarmingly, her daughter, Kassidy Peters.

And we learned that the Republicans on GOAC will continue to strive mightily to avoid holding Republicans accountable for abuses of power.

DLR Secretary Marcia Hultman told GOAC that she and the Governor brought Bren before the Governor and her unhappy daughter at the Governor’s Mansion to “talk about the current licensing process to become an appraiser in South Dakota and potential changes to that process.” Secretary Hultman said a plan was already in place to help the struggling Peters complete her appraiser certification, so a meeting at which a lonely Bren faced her boss the Secretary, three lawyers, the Governor, the Governor’s daughter, and the Governor’s chief of staff while she was presented with a letter blasting the denial of Peters’s certification, calling the evaluation process “inefficient”, and calling Peters’s examiner “unprofessional” couldn’t have been an effort to put any pressure on Bren to treat Peters’s application more favorably.

And Republican Senator David Wheeler (R-22/Huron) bought that ruse:

Regarding the application for Kassidy Peters, is that the conversations that she had to get her license with Sherry Bren occurred before the meeting at the residence. And that after that point, her license was no longer in Sherry Bren’s hands. It was in the hands of her, Kassidy herself, to complete her education, and in the hands of the independent reviewers who were then going to review her work product as part of her examination.

And to me that is important to point out as something I learned new today. There’s two ways of looking in that. One is that the governor had a family member who was going through the process and maybe there’s an insight there you can have easy access to learn about. On the other hand, she had a pending application for a licensure, and it does create the appearance of conflict that generated all the controversy that brought us here today… But when we get down to the facts of what actually happened, the evidence that we have today indicates that there was at no point pressure brought on Sherry Bren to have any effect on Kassidy Peters’ license [Sen. David Wheeler, quoted in Bob Mercer, “Governor’s Daughter Had Appraisal Plan in Place Prior to Meeting, Hultman Tells S.D. Legislators,” KELO-TV, updated 2021.10.29].

Republican Senator Jean Hunhoff (R-18/Yankton) also semantically stumbled toward excuses, because, you know, all of us in management at some point call our underlings in for a gang-browbeating when they fail to treat our offspring as God’s gift to the organization:

What we did here is a plan was prior made, that there was an agreement, alright, so that was in place. Again, we don’t know all the details, but we do know that a plan was put into place. So, I think that says, you know, that was, and that’s open to anyone, we did hear that other people can have mentoring… I think that unfortunately there maybe was an action or behavior that was done, and we all in management in our own businesses or whatever, sometimes we do faux pas, and we learn from that. So, I’m just hoping that is. But I don’t believe it was out of context in the sense that the plan was in place for this individual to move on [Sen. Jean Hunhoff, in Mercer, 2021.10.29].

Unbound by partisan fealty to the Snow Queen, GOAC’s only Democratic Senators were able to speak more intelligibly about what Hultman was telling them:

We invited an individual to that meeting who had, who was having difficulty getting certified. And clearly the secretary said that is not a normal process, that it hadn’t happened. We need to understand why that happened… [Sen. Linda Duba (D-15/Sioux Falls), in Mercer, 2021.10.29].

“It continues to look bad, but we can’t clear the air because we can’t ask the rest of the questions,” said Sen. Reynold Nesiba [D-15/Sioux Falls] after Hultman and an attorney at her side repeatedly declined to get into specifics about what transpired at the meeting that’s raised allegations of nepotism and abuse of power. “It seems to me like there’s still a lot of questions that remain unanswered and I’ll leave it at that” [Joe Sneve, “Nepotism Probe into Gov. Noem, South Dakota Labor Office Leaves Questions Unanswered,” that Sioux Falls paper, updated 2021.10.29].

Helping leave Senator Nesiba’s questions unanswered is ousted appraiser certification chief Bren, who still hasn’t figured out that the non-disparagement clause the state made her sign in order to finalize its costly settlement of her age-discrimination claim doesn’t stop her from telling the facts about what happened at that July 27, 2020, meeting. Senator Wheeler and GOAC chair Kyle Schoenfish (R-19/Scotland) said exactly that during Thursday’s hearing. Unfortunately, Bren’s lawyer, Timothy Rensch of Rapid City (who has helped killer Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg avoid accountability for his own crimes), advised her to keep quiet and notified Senator Schoenfish Wednesday afternoon that his client was “politely” declining GOAC’s invitation to testify. Following the hearing, Bren let the press know that she is working with Rensch “to achieve an opportunity to provide relevant facts to members of the Government Operations and Audit Committee and to correct any factual inaccuracies that were provided to them by Sec. Hultman in her testimony today.”

The primary factual inaccuracy that requires correcting is the idea that the Governor can leap over the chain of command, drag a subordinate into the Mansion for a chewing out in front of lawyers and her own dissatisfied daughter, and then pretend that’s not special treatment for her daughter or an abuse of her executive authority.

Another major inaccuracy lies with citizens who think Republican legislators like Senators Wheeler and Hunhoff will ever hold their Republican Governor accountable for such abuses of power. Republicans’ swallowing of Secretary Hultman’s great dollops of horsehockey Thursday demonstrate the inability of South Dakota’s one-party regime to deal soberly with genuine and blatant corruption. If you want accountability, don’t expect it from GOAC; your only reliable option is to turn out in force on November 8, 2022, and vote Noem out of office for good.

33 Comments

  1. Donald Pay 2021-10-31

    The statement by Sen. Hunhoff is stumbling, mumbling, and dissembling at its worst. My mother always told me not to lie, because I was no good at it. Sen. Hunoff’s mother should have given her the same advise.

    Never expect truth or accountability from Republicans, especially not the Noem ilk. You have to understand it’s a criminal syndicate you’re dealing with. Rarely does the truth pass from their lips.

  2. WILLIAM BAKER 2021-10-31

    Hultman oversees the Human Rights Dept. of which is Investigations for EEOC complaints. How can EEOC complaints be investigated Lawfully and Ethically when what happened here is beyond issues of licensure the Human Rights Dept. issues of EEOC, it seems to me that any EEOC complaint is at risk for further discrimination. Thanks for the fine reporting on this story makes two Fed. Entities that are involved.

  3. Bob Newland 2021-10-31

    Hultman is, I believe, taking a tack she believes will protect her from being fired. Bunker up, hunker down, and maybe this storm will pass with me still in my job.

  4. mike from iowa 2021-10-31

    Magat sinators got me almost clearly convinced Kassidy Peters was or was not the 2nd gunman on the grassy knoll in 1963 Dallass, Texass, even though she clearly is or isn’t old enough to have been there. Otherwise, colour me skeptical as all get out.

  5. ArloBlundt 2021-10-31

    Well..the Republican Senators are gutless and dishonest…absolutely disingenuous in their reading of reality..While we need the testimony of Ms. Bren she is obviously terrified and obviously is totally exposed to the retribution of the entire Republican machine if she does testify…but we really don’t need her testimony to come to the correct conclusion…just look at the mess being created in the program of Appraiser certification now.It is a scandal that will not go away.

  6. Porter Lansing 2021-10-31

    There’s little reason for Ms. Bren to testify.

    The GOP Senators’ minds are already made up.

    Why stick your dauber into the fire when it will help no one and undoubtedly hurt yourself?

    South Dakota government is crooked and there ain’t nothin’ any fairness minded liberal can do about it.

    Except move to Minnesota and be glad it’s all behind.

  7. mike from iowa 2021-10-31

    That “mess” Mr. Blundt mentions is what happens when magats attempt to fix what isn’t broken. Just like the IRS, USPS, Food Stamps, Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering and a host of other programs the’ll screw up.

  8. Porter Lansing 2021-10-31

    Is it true that the Governor’s costume is the Frontman from “SQUID GAME”?

  9. Francis Schaffer 2021-10-31

    Not sure how Marcia Hultman is allowed to testify for Sherry Bren? No pressure? If a plan to help Noem the younger why a meeting at all?

  10. Mark Anderson 2021-10-31

    Well, what can you say, this has really messed up the VP candidacy for Noem. She might as well have had an affair….

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-31

    Francis, indeed: I still can’t come up with any scenario that justifies having Peters, Noem, the chief of staff, and three (!) lawyers facing down Bren in Noem’s office or mansion. Whatever was going on should have been handled at the department level, between Bren and her supervisor.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-31

    Mobsters walk into the grocery store to talk about the owner’s current insurance policy and potential changes the owner might want to make to those insurance policies. No pressure—they’re just pointing out facts about bad things that have happened to other shops in the neighborhood and how including a little protection money in the monthly budget could really reduce liabilities. No pressure at all.

  13. grudznick 2021-10-31

    Do we know what sort of treats are being handed out? I’m just sayin…

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-31

    Porter, I understand the rationale you offer for Bren to remain silent: given Wheeler’s and Hunhoff’s verbal contortions, why bother trying to convince the committee of the truth?

    But we need people to speak up and speak to wider court of public opinion, to lay out the facts of the corruption they witness until the SDGOP lies can’t hold up any more.

    Arlo, I don’t know what Been has to be scared of. The Party already took away her job and had to pay dearly for it. The non-disparagement clause provides no means for punishing Bren if she tells us the facts. The Party can’t take anything else from her, and if the Party tries, it will confirm suspicions and make the scandal worse.

    Speak up, Sherry Bren. The state took away your job, but you can still serve the public by speaking up.

  15. Porter Lansing 2021-10-31

    She’s giving out sauerkraut cookies, grudzie. #Reichstag

  16. grudznick 2021-10-31

    Is Ms. Bren a libbie, a conservative, or does it not matter? There are many out-of-state name-callers with axes to grind, but none of them apparently showed up at the meetings of the legislatures to testify. They who show up and work harder get things done. They who just bitch are bitchers. I am actually surprised that fellow from the state employee union was not at least on the zoom for these meetings. He seems to have thrown in the towel.

  17. Porter Lansing 2021-10-31

    Cory, I admire your persistence amid a lost cause, but I think it’s time to take yourself to a different game. One that isn’t too crooked to straighten.
    You can win a few in federal court, which just triggers the legislature to enact laws to codify what you fought to stop.

  18. grudznick 2021-10-31

    Mr. Lansing, I suspect this year will probably be one where the real battles are waged in the hallways and lobbies and restaurants and watering holes. This is the Year of the Lobbists! This year, the little people rise up and work through their real representatives. Mark down on a paper grudznick’s words here.

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-31

    Grudz, Bren’s political persuasion does not matter. It takes no partisan interpretation to recognize the impropriety of the Mansion meeting and Bren’s subsequent ouster. The only reason party figures in this discussion now is to explain why Senators Wheeler and Hunhoff felt obliged to offer the rambling, almost incoherent excuses they did in the Thursday hearing. Only partisan mania can make people say things that weird in defense of behavior so obviously bad.

  20. mike from iowa 2021-10-31

    Grudzilla’s words on paper replace corn cobs in the old outhouse. Corn cobs have higher uses.

  21. grudznick 2021-10-31

    Well, we all read a lot of partisan mania on the blogs every day. Like our old friend Bill used to say, before he sold out to The Man:

    I’m just sayin…

  22. Bob Newland 2021-10-31

    Porter! Whaddya talkin’? I mean, I and some others hung out in the Capitol with the legislators and all, drinkin’ wit’ ’em and smokin’ wit’ ’em, and explaining how what they was doin’ was wrong, like when they put people in jail for smokin’ weed ‘n’ stuff like that. They drank our drinks, smoked our weed, and said “Weed is bad,” and sat down hard on crime. They also were triggered to enact laws to codify what we fought to stop.

    Then, out of a flash of something or other, comes the legislation to re-legalize common hemp for all sorts of uses. Then comes the initiatives, which show convincing public approval of the laughter and cynicism varieties of cannabis, along with, of course, the overwhelming public approval of allowing sick, disabled and dying people relief from their misery.

    No need to codify here. We’ll just ask the Supreme Court to sit on a decision longer than it has sat on a decision in its 130-year history. The decision asked of them? Did South Dakota voters know they were voting on a constitutional amendment to allow people to buy, sell and use cannabis? Medical cannabis enactment of a 73% vote? Do nothing until you can tell the voters, “No need to enact now.”

  23. grudznick 2021-10-31

    Bob, you should move back to the Great State of South Dakota and head up this initiative.

  24. bearcreekbat 2021-10-31

    The idea that “The non-disparagement clause provides no means for punishing Bren if she tells us the facts” seems quite naive. There may be no safe way to establish “the facts.” Even if Bren describes what she recalls with 100% accuracy, what will stop the Governor and her toadies and sychophants from claiming another set of facts? And when there are opposing claims of reality, is it really worth it for Bren to hope the powers that be in SD are objective enough to accept her word over the Governor’s word, which, incidently, would likely supported by everyone else at the meeting? After all, who was at that meeting on behalf of Bren? If Bren’s description of what happened (the actual “facts”) puts Noem in a bad light, which seems quite likely, but is disputed and rejected as false, it would put her in a tough spot. Rensch would certainly have a tough time finding a defense against that Governor’s claim that Bren breached her nondisparagement agreement.

  25. Disgusted Dakotan 2021-10-31

    Wasn’t Hunhoff a diligent apologist for the gear up corruption too? Brilliant move by Lee Schoenbeck to put willing milquetoast tool Kyle Schoenfish of gear up infamy as a goal keeper for the establishment. Too bad actually, that committee could be a useful tool on combating the ever ongoing presences of government corruption. Like putting the coyotes and skunks in charge of guarding the chicken coop.

  26. chris 2021-11-01

    What happens in the Mansion, STAYS in the Mansion.

  27. Donald Pay 2021-11-01

    At one point in my state employee career I got pulled out by the head of the agency. It was suggested that I “cool it” on my organizing opposition to the huge National Farms hog confinement operation that was proposed for Hughes County. I didn’t need the Governor, at that time Mickelson, to be in the room to know where that direction was coming from. Well, I had, of course, already handed the organizing off to others and taken a more “advisory role” in the background. I had other things to do, like help expose the sewage ash scam.

    The thing is if you work for state government, you work for the people of the state, just as much as the Governor is supposed to. The Governor might be elected, but that doesn’t give him or her the ability to order you to violate the law, administrative rules or your own integrity. Bren’s integrity stands in contrast to Noem’s corruption. Bren doesn’t need to say anything, but Noem should be hauled up there and made to answer hard questions under oath.

    I later had a conversation with one of Mickelson’s cabinet heads as we pushed our little girls on swings in a city park. He told me that Mickelson’s cabinet was split on that hog farm, and that our opposition group had more support than we realized. He said we should “keep pushing.” I thanked him for that information.

  28. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-01

    Bear, I understand your caution. The state could challenge anything Bren says in court. But in such a challenge, who bears the burden of proof? Generally in libel, my understanding is that the subject of the speech bears the burden of proving the speech was false. Does this non-disparagement agreement shift the burden to the speaker to prove what she is saying is true?

  29. bearcreekbat 2021-11-01

    Cory, I have not read the nondisparagement agreement but even if it attempted to shift the burden of proof it seems doubtful such a provision would be effective, i.e. the burden would still be on the governor as plaintiff to prove whatever facts she claimed. And it would be up to a finder of fact, whether a judge, jury, administrative hearing officer, arbitrator, or whoever to decide which side to believe when the plaintiff and defendant each offer different testimony about the facts of the case.

    Bren might have a reasonable chance with an unbiased fact finder, but even then if Noem and her minions at the meeting decided to stick together with one story it could end up being only Bren’s word against the sworn testimony of multiple witnesses, including the Governor herself; and, given the lack of respect for telling the truth, which we have seen grow exponentially since 2016 in some circles, including Trumpist circles, it seems reasonable to anticipate fabrications in a court proceeding by members of that particular circle. Absent a blue dress with DNA the ability to prove perjury might be difficult even for a justice seeking prosecutor.

  30. RST Tribal Member 2021-11-01

    Well. Well. Since time of first contact a large group of original inhabitants learned the words coming out of a political mouth will not let the truth get in the way of a sound lie. Happened then. Happening now. Bound to happen tomorrow.

    The inbred Republicans in Pierre can only help that poor defenseless child get her due. She Is entitled by race, birth and status of “like kind” in good old South Dakota. Mommy Gov gave her critters jobs beyond their talent with pay beyond their worth, and certificate they cannot normally achieve. This behavior happens anytime, every time and all times a poor child of the inbreds Republicans come in contact with money or regulations. This is the credo of them there Republicans parents/politicians. Cannot defend it. Cannot beat it. Can only try to replace it.

    At some point the economically challenged inbred voters will calmer for more of the bounty handed out in Pierre like candy on a pretend holiday like Halloween. Look at the CARE funded candy handed out in 2020, not many in the bottom economic quartile were gifted. Just the donors and “like kind”. A true trick or treat move by the Queen/America’s/Bully/ Pimp/Mom Gov and her likings.

    I heard a song with the line, “ times are a chancing”, just hope it happens within the next couple elections.

  31. Porter Lansing 2021-11-01

    Your Governor Noem sure dresses like a man, a lot.

    If Daugaard dressed as Glinda for Halloween, I’d make the same comment.

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