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Schoenbeck Warns GOAC Not to Ask Which Governor Nepotized for Which Daughter; Executive Board Approves Bren Subpoena

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).

9 Comments

  1. Donald Pay 2021-11-18

    You need to know exactly what happened before, during and after that meeting, because it tells you a lot about how weak the rule of law is in South Dakota, in what manner it is weak, how corruption happens and provide some hints as to how to strengthen the rule of law against the levers of corruption. Is that something Schoenbeck doesn’t want laid out?

    Noem’s illegal or extra-legal intervention in legal and administrative process is not uncommon. Other Governors have done this stuff, maybe not as brazen, bullying and nepotistic as in Kassidy Peters application process, but bad enough. It caused the sewage ash fiasco during the Janklow Administration, which Mickelson had to deal with. I can tell you exactly how that happened. It caused the decades long Lonetree Balefill court fights, starting in the Mickelson Administration and going through the Rounds Administration. Again, a whipsaw of illegal executive actions. Secret illegal and extra-legal intervention by the executive branch is the cause of most of the corruption in South Dakota. And then, of course, there is the abject failure to enforce lawful standards, the rush toward de-regulation or lax regulation that assures corruption can continue without end. Amen.

    I’ve never understood why the Legislature, supposedly designed to serve as a check on executive power, never uses that check. I mean Schoenbeck thinks this is about “personalities.” With such a clownish dismissal of what happened, how can you expect anything but a coverup. Such a refusal to get to the bottom of this one incident shows Schoenbeck is not serious. He prefers now to sweep it under the rug, just like every other scandal and fiasco that has emanated from second floor, or second floor cronies, over the last 50 years.

    I think Schoenbeck’s lack of manhood stems from a fantasy of eventually reaching to become King of South Dakota, when he can rule with corruption, just like every other Governor for the last 50 years. Or maybe it’s because he’s frightened off by the corrupt and elitist business wing of his party, who prefers a strong and malleable executive to force bad projects on the citizenry. So what if there’s a little nepotism, they want the corruption to continue. And it will, if the Legislature doesn’t grow a pair.

  2. ArloBlundt 2021-11-18

    Well…Donald has nailed it…it starts with the Governor exercising “executive power” to override any administrative rule or statute and a bullying and intimidation of state employees charged with enforcing those rules and laws to ignore their duty and enforce the Governor’s wishes. The legislature has been a “non-player” in the operation of state government for the last 50 years.

  3. larry kurtz 2021-11-18

    This year, dissatisfaction with the hearings led Democratic lawmakers to push for reinstatement of the state’s Ethics Commission, which was repealed in 1979. The Republican majority laughed the bill out of the House on a 53-16 vote. During the House debate, one lawmaker, Republican Lee Schoenbeck, said that if an ethics commission could help combat corruption, then “I want a Tom Cruise commission to make us all strong and handsome.”

    https://publicintegrity.org/politics/state-politics/state-integrity-investigation/south-dakota-gets-f-grade-in-2015-state-integrity-investigation/

  4. Porter Lansing 2021-11-18

    The bully Schoenbeck protecting the bully Noem.
    Well, well, well.
    BTW, Cory
    You’re insulting Lake Kampeska by associating it with that ambulance chaser from Brock Lesnar’s little town.
    He’s only in WasserStadt because his family’s reputation in Webster drove him south, where his reputation wasn’t so well known.

  5. grudznick 2021-11-18

    Sewage ash, sewage ash, sewage ash. Why is everything always about dredging up the muck of sewage ash, Mr. Pay? BAH on sewage ash.

    Here’s a real question for you to ruminate on. Why do you think that Mr. Cammack was the only holdout naysayer, despite knowing he would be outvoted by a large margin?

  6. grudznick 2021-11-18

    Mr. Blundt, the part-time legislatures are not supposed to be involved in the operation of state government.

  7. Porter Lansing 2021-11-18

    Grumpy grudssssnick, I say.
    Miss your nap, OG? lol

  8. ArloBlundt 2021-11-19

    Grudz–and the legislature is most certainly abidingly out of touch of with the operations of the government they have taken an oath to preserve.

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