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Bren Agrees to Respond Under Subpoena to GOAC Questions About Noem’s Involvement in Daughter’s Appraiser Certification

When the Government Operations and Audit Committee finally punches through its Republican-imposed red tape, the committee has 24 questions for Sherry Bren, the creator and 30-year director of South Dakota’s Appraiser Certification Program whom Governor Kristi Noem ousted in a fit of pique following her daughter’s slow progress toward appraiser certification. And after her initial hesitance, Bren is ready to answer those questions, live and in person.

After the excitement of two Special Sessions this week, GOAC chairman Senator Kyle Schoenfish (R-19/Scotland) sent a letter to Bren’s attorney, Tim Rensch of Rapid City, asking for Bren’s responses to these 24 questions on five topics related to the Appraiser Certification Program and the Governor’s unusual involvement therein. All of these questions could elicit helpful information about whether Governor Noem’s professed “streamlining” was actually bumbling nepotism; I place in bold the questions where committee members might want to nudge their neighbors to make sure they are listening closely:

Kassidy Peters

  1. Were you a participant in any informal/pre meetings that pertained to Kassidy Peters and her plan to achieve certification?
  2. If you were a participant, what was your involvement regarding the plan?
  3. Was there a formal document created and agreed to by Kassidy Peters and any other participants?
  4. Who was directly or indirectly responsible for ensuring Kassidy Peters completed additional training/requirements to be certified?
  5. Do you have any other information you can provide that may be pertinent to Kassidy Peter’s [sic] certification, the meeting in July 2020, or subsequent follow up actions taken by the DOL regarding your request to leave?
  6. Was an action plan in place, designed to assure successful completion of licensing/certification, on behalf of Kassidy Peters prior to 2021. Was any such action plan endorsed by you or your office?
  7. Was Kassidy Peters given special treatment in the process of granting her appraiser certification?
  8. Did you enter into an Agreed Disposition with Kassidy Peters when you were the director of the Appraiser Certification Program? If so, when was that agreement made? Were the terms of the agreement any more or less stringent than terms agreed to with other applicants for certification?
  9. After an Agreed Disposition is made with any applicant, what further role did you have in the certification process? If an applicant complies with the terms of an Agreed Disposition, did you have any further discretion in granting or denying the appraiser certification?
  10. Were you ever pressured by any state official to grant Kassidy Peters a certification? If so, please identify the state official and describe the nature of the pressure and your response to it.

Sherry Bren and her retirement

  1. When you were asked to retire, what specific reasons were given for your forced retirement?
  2. Had you at any time prior to the July 2020 meeting had any conversations with your direct supervisor or the Secretary of Labor that specifically detailed deficiencies in your actions/performance related to the Appraiser Certification Program? If yes, were these documented by your superiors?
  3. You filed a claim based on age discrimination. Do you believe age was the only, or primary, consideration in your encouraged retirement?
  4. Was there anything negative in any of your performance evaluations (reviews) prior to 2021?

Professional Appraisers Association of South Dakota (PAASD)

  1. Please describe your working relationship with the PAASD prior to 2021?
  2. Have you had any involvement with PAASD since your leaving state employment? If so, what?

Meeting with the Governor

  1. When you were called to the Governor’s Residence, were you surprised by anyone who was in attendance given the topic of the meeting was to discuss the certification process?
  2. Please provide an overall summary of the meeting including approximate length, topics discussed, any tasks/deliverables assigned, etc.
  3. Was Kassidy Peters’ role at your meeting to help illustrate problems with the program or to address her personal struggles passing the exam?
  4. Had your boss at DOL, at any time in your tenure, ever called a meeting similar to the one with the Governor (with the individual whose certification/licensing status was in question in attendance) before?
  5. How would you describe the meeting with the Governor on July 27, 2020? What was its purpose? Was Kassidy Peter’s application discussed? If so, who participated in the discussion and what was the nature of that discussion?

Other matters

  1. Secretary Marcia Hultman provided testimony to the Government Operations and Audit Committee on October 28, 2021, the audio of her testimony is available on Legislative Research Council’s website, what if any statements she made do you consider to be inaccurate, and if so, please explain.
  2. The Governor convened a group of her Department Secretaries shortly after taking office in January 2019. Were you ever a part of or aware of any discussions regarding the Appraiser Certification program/process in terms of delays or red tape? If yes, what tasks or actions were you asked to take to improve the certification process?
  3. Were you asked to assist or provide written documentation for the incoming Executive Director prior to your leaving in March 2021? [Sen. Kyle Schoenfish, chair, Government Operations and Audit Committee, letter to Tim Rensch, 2021.11.10]

The next day, Thursday, November 11, Rensch emailed back that if GOAC issues a subpoena, Bren will come testify in person and won’t even charge the committee for mileage:

Rather than a written question format it is my client’s preference to testify live pursuant to a valid subpoena. I will accept service on her behalf to reduce any complications of service we would waive any witness or mileage fees. I would like to also be included in the scheduling of her testimony so I can avoid any scheduling conflicts; thus, if you would advise in advance as to proposed dates I would appreciate it [Tim Rensch, letter to Sen. Kyle Schoenfish, 2021.11.11].

Bren could go to GOAC Monday and testify without waiting for a subpoena, but speaking under legal command of the committee may help put to rest any lingering concerns Bren may have about the non-disparagement clause that the state imposed on her as a condition of its six-figure settlement of her age discrimination complaint.

38 Comments

  1. Porter Lansing 2021-11-13

    Those questions are great.

    Well done, GOAC.

  2. Jake 2021-11-13

    Agreed, Porter. If only, the rest of the GOP Republican governmental operations did their jobs in a similar clearly stated manner, this state would be far better served. Far better.

  3. Scott 2021-11-13

    There are SD GOP members who are not Noem fans.

    Before the start of the Pandemic there was talk by some high up SD GOP that they were not going to back Noem for a 2nd run as governor. That talk dried up, but I have to imagine that will start again. Noem has been her own worst enemy with issues such as hemp, her questionable meth campaign, and here overuse of lawsuits.

    This inquiry could be the start for some SD GOP members to push Noem out. Noem’s recent announcement to seek reelection may have been a way to keep others from wanting to run for governor.

  4. 96Tears 2021-11-13

    Two questions.

    1. Will Bren’s answers be sworn testimony?

    2. Will the hearing be open to the public and video recorded?

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-11-13

    Come on in the broader(no not the women) part of the Republican party, you know the kooks, they like nepotism, it’s family, heck they like violence. They love this kind of stuff. It’s really like in the movie Cabaret after the beautiful Nazi boy sings Tommorrow Belongs to Me in a little village scene and everyone stands and sings, the main male character asks the German industrialist, when they are getting into his car, “do you still think you can control them?”

  6. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-11-13

    96Tears: You pose two excellent questions. I cannot imagine the hearing will be open to the public (but I’m usually spectacularly wrong about everything).
    Even if it was sworn testimony and recorded, I have no faith it will effect any changes in This Great State of Corrupt and Lying Reptilian Lawyers.
    What, like an adoring, white male populace will suddenly smite itself on the forehead and decide Kristi Lynn is a pathologically lying twit and IMPEACH HER?
    I don’t think so. I truly wish I wasn’t so cynical; I’ve merely lived in South Dakota for twenty years. I like your questions. Bonnie

  7. Bob Newland 2021-11-13

    I am cynically pessoptimistic.

  8. Jake 2021-11-13

    I think that some of the GOP GOAC committee members have been frequenting Cory’s blog and have absorbed some of his quest for truth and common sense. (And I don’t mean to infringe on our current Senator Round’s misuse of “SD Common Sense’ to vault him to that body)-as he only surfaces and speaks when it is in his own self interest!
    Cory’s input (and his blog commenters here) have added a dimension of interest and truth to SD Politics these past years thatare greatly making this state better every day.
    This one voice in this sparsely populated “fly-over state” of less than a million souls is deeply grateful
    that we have Dakota Free Press, Northern Valley Beacon, south Dakota Standard and others to help us keep up to date with our state’s government of a singular GOP-bent mentality and see said mentality with all its ‘warts’ and ‘boils’ boil over!

  9. ArloBlundt 2021-11-13

    Well…thank you Jake…apparently the worm has tuned and I have to apologize for an earlier post where I said the GOAC was not interested in finding out what really happened at the meeting at the Governors Mansion. I think it’s unfortunate that all the pressure is on Ms. Bren as there were seven or eight other people in attendance. Ms. Bren is key to understanding the circumstances and both the pre-meeting manipulations and post meeting outcomes. Plus she appears to be the only reliable witness.

  10. ArloBlundt 2021-11-13

    the worm has turned…one of my favorite phrases which i do not know the derivation of but which seems to describe the Governor’s present position.

  11. Drey Samuelson 2021-11-14

    Hats off to GOAC, and hats off to Cory and others for keeping the pressure on, too! My guess is that the Governor’s haughty treatment of some Republican legislators isn’t serving her well here…

  12. mike from iowa 2021-11-14

    The idiom the worm has turned is derived from a much older saying found in John Heywood’s 1546 proverb collection: “Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne.” The idea was popularized by William Shakespeare in his play Henry VI, Part 3: “The smallest worm will turn being trodden on…”

    Noem’s tail likely breaks off and regrows. She lives to lie another day. No offense to skinks implied or intended.

  13. Bob Newland 2021-11-14

    Anybody heard anything from Larry Rhoden lately? Wait, two years ago, Bill Napoli told him to “sit down and shut up.” Apparently, Napoli hasn’t reversed his order yet.

  14. grudznick 2021-11-14

    We can all hope that once this GOAC decides to really look into something important, they can put Mr. Schoenfish on the stand to give us an update on the Gearing-Up program.

  15. Lottie 2021-11-14

    I hope Bren isnt set up to fail. I fear Gnome will come out on top. Yikes. She wants to be a president. Yikes again.

  16. Janet 2021-11-14

    Mark Anderson your comment comparing present day partisanship to the line from Cabaret: “do you still think you can control them?” is so very applicable to our current state of affairs in SD and the nation.

  17. grudznick 2021-11-14

    What if the GOAC is in cahoots with Ms. Noem and are going to really stick it to Ms. Bren? I bet Ms. Bren brings her shady lawyer from Rapid City. grudznick has had dealings with him before.

  18. ArloBlundt 2021-11-14

    Well…Grudz, I am sure Ms. Bren will have her lawyer at hand…and I’m sure there are Republicans on the committee who want to beat her up….at least 200,000 dollars worth of abuse will be sent her way…and, yes, I believe Geear Up and even EB-5 could come up later in the session…blood is in the water.

  19. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-11-14

    Bob Newland: I really like the pessoptimistic part. May I borrow that word occasionally?

  20. Mark Anderson 2021-11-14

    Well grudz if I were a servant for the state of South Dakota and was near retirement age, I would do everything I could too pee off the red hatted Noem. Good retirement benefits will come your way.

  21. grudznick 2021-11-14

    Red hatted?

  22. grudznick 2021-11-14

    Mr. Blundt, I suspect Mr. Schoenfish, he the chair of the committee of the legislatures of the GOAC, probably doesn’t want to dredge back up from the muck the lure of the Gearing-Up program, and the various allures that are entangled with it.

    Like the blog’s good friend Bill, who sold out to The Man, used to say: I’m just sayin…

  23. Mark Anderson 2021-11-14

    Grudz, the Noem on the front lawn we wall by everyday has a red hat. I like to personalize.

  24. grudznick 2021-11-14

    I remain confused, but I don’t “wall by” the Noem’s lawn as often as you must. I do like hats, especially ones like my good friend Bob sports, but his are not red. But red hats are just fine.

    Oh, wait. You must mean those little garden gnomes. Ha. Yes, now I get it. Ha. That’s a very original pun.

  25. Porter Lansing 2021-11-14

    A despicable lobbyist like grudznick is calling my good friend Bill a sell out?

    Mr. Lansing is laughing.

  26. grudznick 2021-11-14

    Mr. Lansing, once again you are not following the reality here. You need to look at how much grift our good friend Bill has taken from Governor Noem. It is public record and does not take Mr. H to point it out, for he will not as he is ashamed. Mr. H. would not sell out even for millions from Gov. Noem. Shame! Shame!

    I’m just sayin…

  27. larry kurtz 2021-11-14

    So, Mrs. Peters is a political pawn on the nepotism chessboard where the white snow queen is willing to sacrifice every piece to raise more than ten million dollars just to own the libs.

    That anyone is surprised by the discovered check likely just moved to South Dakota.

  28. Porter Lansing 2021-11-14

    Grudznick, in his aged, dementia riddled, memory forgets that it was me that told him about the windfall our friend Bill was offered, accepted, and has zero to be apologetic about.

    Too much gravy has increased this old “greaser’s” triglyceride levels to dangerous, but he knows that and is simply committing suicide by “breakfast”.

  29. larry kurtz 2021-11-14

    How have people forgotten that events like these were features of the Rounds and Daugaard administrations where family was routinely hired to bamboozle media and pop the Pez into the maws of every miserable grudznick who pulls the levers and scrubs the airport toilets?

  30. buckobear 2021-11-14

    Are honest answers, under oath “disparaging/“

  31. larry kurtz 2021-11-14

    Bill Fleming is battling an aggressive sarcoma. That a blog parasite would capitalize on one Democrat’s history of providing for his family is red state failure on parade.

  32. grudznick 2021-11-14

    There is nothing wrong with taking money from The Man. Nothing at all. My good friend Bob would take that sort of money. grudznick would take that kind of money. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    Unless you are hypocritical about it.

  33. larry kurtz 2021-11-14

    Subsidized malignancy is an inherent South Dakota trait.

  34. Porter Lansing 2021-11-14

    I’ve decided enough is enough.
    Do what I’ve done and download the COVID DEFENSE app, to your phone.
    It sends out pings and keeps track of whom you’ve been near.
    If another app user tests positive, they notify the app and anyone who’s been near them is notified and recommended to self quarantine.
    I got such a notice four days ago and am quarantined, at home, for another ten days.
    No symptoms and I’m proud of myself for finally doing something to help mitigate this plague, once and for all.
    i.e. If you happen to test positive how can you possibly remember whom you’ve been around, the past week?
    Hmmmm? You can’t. This is why USA is still in harm’s way and countries who’ve used this system are all but back to normal.

  35. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-15

    Grudz, we know GOAC’s Wheeler and Hunhoff are willing to run interference for Noem and may grill Bren hard. But it is remarkable that Bren prefers to face them in person rather than submit written answers. I’d like to believe Bren is signaling that she knows the facts, is now not afraid to tell them, and wants to be in the room to respond immediately to whatever spin the Republicans try making on the Snow Queen’s behalf.

  36. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-11-17

    Tee hee. Just slightly off topic, guess who’s quitting the real estate bidness, according to the AP.

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