Approving the minutes of a meeting is usually no big deal. But the Government Operations and Audit Committee has included in the December minutes up for approval at today’s meeting an “Appendix” summarizing the facts GOAC says it learned from the evidence and testimony it took concerning Governor Kristi Noem’s intervention in her daughter Kassidy Peters‘s application for certification as a real estate appraiser. This appendix is a big deal, since it’s less a record of the GOAC hearings and more an official report on the committee’s conclusions of fact about the Governor’s behavior in this affair.
And this report comes to the same conclusion that was apparent to us observers last fall: Governor Noem’s daughter received special treatment in the appraise certification process:
The report also recounts the testimony of Sherry Bren, the experienced and respected founder and director of the real estate appraiser certification program whom the Governor forced to retire and whose character she assassinated after Bren testified to GOAC. The report does not include Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman’s October 28, 2021, incredible testimony that the unusual meeting to which the Governor summoned Bren to discuss her daughter’s application was not pressure; the report does note Hultman’s statement that “she was not aware of another time when someone in training for a position, such as Kassidy Peters, had been included in a meeting such as the one on July 27, 2020.” That choice of statements to include in this final report indicate that GOAC is acknowledging what was plain to most readers the moment AP’s Stephen Groves broke this story last October: a Governor calling a state employee to the office for a meeting in front of the employee’s immediate boss, several lawyers, and the aggrieved party, who happened to be the Governor’s pouty daughter, is damned irregular.
We have a word for an elected official’s special treatment of her daughter in state affairs: nepotism. GOAC doesn’t use that word in this draft appendix, but the appendix’s plain statements of fact tell us that nepotism happened. Those statements of fact could also support action by the Government Accountability Board, the panel of retired judges who are digging into Noem’s nepotism.
Approval of the minutes, including this appendix/report on the special treatment Noem’s daughter received in the appraiser certification process, is the first item the ten legislators on GOAC will take up when they convene at 9 a.m. today in Room 414 of the Capitol. If Noem isn’t busy jetting to another out-of-state fundraiser, perhaps she’ll come up from the Second Floor to attempt an appendectomy.
Update 08:42 CDT: Representative Jamie Smith (D-15/Sioux Falls), who is running to replace Noem and whose District 15 neighbors Representative Linda Duba and Senator Reynold Nesiba sit on GOAC, issues this stern condemnation of the nepotism demonstrated in GOAC’s appendix:
It is abundantly clear that Governor Noem broke her oath of office and abused her authority by using her power for her family’s personal gain. Corruption in national politics is nothing new. Despite Governor Noem’s national political aspirations, this kind of blatant corruption has no place in South Dakota.
This behavior might be commonplace in Washington, but it is unbecoming of a South Dakota Governor. South Dakotans expect integrity, fairness, and accountability in their elected officials, not nepotism and deceitfulness. The Governor of South Dakota is sworn to serve the interests of all of the people of this great state. It is not a platform for personal gain.
As Governor, I will hold myself and all state employees accountable to the highest ethical standards. I will never betray the people’s sacred trust for my own personal benefit or the benefit of my family [Jamie Smith, press release, 2022.05.17].
Broke her oath of office? Abused her authority? Unbecoming behavior? That sounds like impeachment talk….