Resisting some last-minute pressure from Team Noem, the Legislature’s Executive Board yesterday approved the Government Operations and Audit Committee’s request to subpoena ousted Appraiser Certification Program director Sherry Bren to get answers to at least 24 questions about the handling of Governor Kristi Noem’s daughter Kassidy Peters’s appraiser certification application, the conditions of Bren’s forced retirement from the ACP, and the inexplicable and inappropriate July 27, 2020, meeting at the Governor’s mansion to which Bren was summoned to be criticized for slow and unprofessional performance in front of the Governor, the Governor’s daughter, the Governor’s chief of staff, the Governor’s lawyer, the Secretary of Labor and Regulation, and two Department of Labor and Regulation lawyers. GOAC is also asking Bren to address any inaccuracies in Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman’s testimony to GOAC on October 28, testimony which Governor Noem has already publicly contradicted.
Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska) moved to ratify GOAC’s request to subpoena Sherry Bren, though he gently but non-bindingly warned GOAC not to ask certain kinds of politically sensitive questions:
Let me express, I think, the opinion of the Senators that I visited with that we feel strongly that this has a limited scope. It’s about the functionality of the appraisal program of which there is much discussion probably in all of our districts because of the critical role appraisers play in getting financing and dealing with all the housing issues we’ve been talking about. So it’s our strong opinion that when Ms. Bren appears, that this should be about that and not about personalities or personnel issues or anything like that. That was the very strong opinion, I believe, of the Senators.
Having said that, let me say that I think the role of the Executive Board when you get these requests are if the committee’s request is within the scope of their work, and this one is, then we should approve that. I think it’s our job to support the work of committees. We appreciate the work that they do do. But we feel—at least the Senators feel very strongly that this hearing, when it takes place, be focused on the challenges, operations, and functionality of that appraiser program and not get into other matters [Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, statement in support of motion to approve GOAC subpoena of Sherry Bren, Legislative Executive Board hearing, 2021.11.17, transcribed from SDPB audio, timestamp 3:15:23].
So the Government Operations and Audit Committee is investigating the extent to which Governor Kristi Noem abused her authority, intervened in her daughter’s appraiser certification application, and damaged the real estate appraisal regulatory process and cost the state $219,151.72 by forcing out the 30-year director of the appraiser certification program, and Senator Schoenbeck thinks GOAC shouldn’t inquire about the words and actions of specific individuals? While I agree that management should be primarily about solving problems and improving processes, sometimes we solve problems and improve processes by identifying, holding accountable, and either remediating or removing the individuals who are causing the problems.
Translation: if Governor Noem screwed up, we need to know it and apply that knowledge during her quadrennial performance review.
Senator Schoenbeck’s neighbor Representative Hugh Bartels (R-5/Watertown) suggested that GOAC should also bring in appraisers and others involved in the real estate business to get perspective on the chronic shortage of appraisers, but his statement was not germane to the question of subpoenaing Sherry Bren. No one else spoke to the motion. The Executive Board then voted 14–1 to approve the Bren subpoena request. The only nay came without comment from Senator Gary Cammack (R-29/Union Center).