(The Center Square) - The former director of the South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program spoke Tuesday for the first time about a meeting at the governor’s mansion that has raised questions about whether Gov. Kristi Noem used her influence to help her daughter obtain a state real estate appraiser’s certification.
Sherry Bren told the joint Government Operations and Audit Committee she was surprised to see Gov. Kristi Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, and other administration officials when she walked into a meeting July 27, 2020, and she felt “intimidated.” Earlier that week, Bren said she had denied Peters' application for a certified appraiser license.
Noem said at the meeting she was looking into why it was so hard to obtain an appraiser’s license in South Dakota, but a detailed discussion of Peters' application also was discussed, Bren told the committee.
The meeting ended with the creation of a plan for Peters to obtain her license, something that was not normal practice in Bren's office for those who had tried twice, Bren said. Peters received her license in November 2020.
Bren said she was “forced” to resign from her position because of age discrimination. She said she would not comment further on her resignation, saying it would be “speculation.” The state reached a $200,000 settlement with Bren, which included a clause that prevents her from saying disparaging things about state officials.
The nondisparagement clause needs to be eliminated so the committee can have “deeper insight into what actually happened,” during the July 27, 2020, meeting, Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, said.
Noem repeatedly has said she did nothing wrong.
“Governor Noem did not seek special treatment for her daughter, and the stipulation agreement that Ms. Peters released proves that there were additional requirements she had to meet,” Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, said in a Twitter post.
A 2017 stipulation agreement contradicted Bren’s testimony that similar agreements never had been made in her office, Fury said in an email.
Bren said the agreement was different than Peters’, which was made after Peters failed to meet the requirements twice. The 2017 agreement involved a new applicant, Bren said.
The appraisal licensing process is cumbersome for applicants, according to residents who appeared before the committee after Bren’s testimony. The committee voted to ask the Department of Labor and Regulation, which oversees the appraisal licensing process, to provide them with more information.