PIERRE, SD (AP) – The daughter of South Dakota Gov. Christy Noem received an unusual appeal in her application for a real estate appraiser license, including an additional opportunity to obtain one after not complying with federal requirements, the former director of state appraisers said. lawmakers Tuesday.
Sherri Bren’s testimony before the Legislative Commission was the first time she detailed publicly about Cassidy Peters’ statement and the meeting her mother called last year to discuss the assessment process. The group began looking into the July 2020 meeting at the governor’s mansion after the Associated Press first reported it in September.
Noem called a meeting a week after the State Appraiser’s Certification Program notified her daughter that her application was rejected. Peters ultimately received her certification four months later, in November 2020, and Bren said she was subsequently “forced into retirement” from a program she has been running since its inception in 1991.
Bren testified that she felt “intimidated” at the July meeting, where she said Peters’ unfortunate statement was discussed in detail and a plan was formulated that gave her another chance to apply.
Bren said she could not recall the agency entering into a so-called “terms agreement” for any other evaluator at that point in its application. She said this violated established procedures, which gave Peters a third chance to pass the job screening; job seekers are usually given two options.
Bren said that even before that, Peters’ claim had drifted away from established practice when Noem’s secretary of labor took on an unusual hands-on role in the spring of that year.
The Legislative Commission’s request stems from Noem positioning herself as a candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential ticket and showing a willingness to strike at potential rivals.
Noem denies wrongdoing, describing his actions as an attempt to reduce red tape and solve the problem of lack of appraisers. Noem also insisted that the agreement was not discussed at the July meeting, and said that her daughter spoke only “about her personal experience with the program.”
“There was a constant narrative that I did something to help her get her license, which is completely wrong,” Noem said at an event on Monday.
In her testimony on Tuesday, Bren said she expected to see Noem and her labor secretary at the July meeting, but was surprised to see others present, including Peters and the governor’s top aides.
“When I got there, I was very nervous and, frankly, scared,” Bren said.
According to her testimony, Noem spokesman Ian Fury tweeted that the agreement shows Peters must fulfill additional requirements in order to obtain a license.
In an email, Fury also questioned the veracity of Bren’s information, pointing out that the agency had previously entered into a “terms agreement” with the applicant in 2017.
But Bren said the agreement was reached in 2017 through litigation by a third-party review board called the Listeners’ Office, to which appraisers can appeal if they believe the agency has misused their license.
“When our case goes to a hearing, these documents will be out of my control or control, and it will not be at all what we are talking about today,” Bren told the committee.
The 2017 agreement sets out a plan for the applicant to withdraw their application and submit a new one; Peters’ consent allowed her to complete her initial application.
Bren said Labor Secretary Marcia Haltman once again deviated from normal procedure and pushed her in the spring to cancel Peters’ first agreement that she must attend additional classes as she tried to comply with federal requirements for the second time. Bren said she could not remember the cabinet secretary ever been involved in this process.
Khaltman had previously testified that Peters’ application was treated in the same way as many other applicants. Haltman also said that the meeting at the governor’s mansion did not affect the consideration of Peters’ application, as regulators had already formed an agreement.
But Bren told lawmakers, “I remember the discussion was focused on developing a second agreement requiring Peters to complete his class. Peters agreed to complete the session, correct and rewrite the assessment reports and submit them to the examiner for review. “
The agreement was signed more than a week after the meeting.
Bren’s appearance was prompted by a subpoena. After being forced into retirement last year, she filed an age discrimination complaint and agreed to pay compensation in the amount of $ 200,000, which prohibits her from humiliating state officials.
Bren said she was “forced into retirement.” When asked later why, she replied, “I believe it was age discrimination, and besides, it would be pure speculation on my part.”
Several lawmakers have said they would like the state to remove the non-defamation clause from the Bren agreement because it would give them more information.
“It’s a question of whether she was a longtime, dedicated employee, was she fired by mistake? Was she illegally fired on behalf of a relative of the governor? And the government paid $ 217,000 to cover it up? “Said Senator Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat. “And we don’t know the answer to that question because of this nondisclosure clause.”
The committee will prepare a report on its findings, Republican co-chair Randy Gross said. He said it would “allow the facts of what we have learned to stand on their own.”
This story corrected the attribution of Sherri Bren’s claim and the fact that she filed an age discrimination complaint rather than a lawsuit.
Follow Stephen Groves on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stephengroves