A July 2020 meeting between Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, her daughter and state labor and regulation employees will be reviewed by state authorities following a report that the meeting was called at the same time Noem’s daughter was seeking a state certification to become a real estate appraiser.
CNN is unable to verify what happened in the meeting, and Noem’s office has denied any wrongdoing. But according to The Associated Press, Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, was facing the denial of her certification when the meeting took place. Peters was subsequently approved for it several months later.
Applicants for a residential appraiser certification “must show they can perform appraisals to national standards, putting to use 200 hours of classroom education and months of experience,” the AP reports. By November 2020, Peters completed additional licensing requirements and became certified, Dawn Dovre, the director of public affairs at the Department of Labor and Regulation, said in an email to CNN.
On Wednesday, Noem tweeted that she “never asked for special treatment for Kassidy. Others went through the same process that Kassidy did.”
“Here are the facts: I have heard for years how difficult it is to become an appraiser in South Dakota, making it harder for South Dakotans to purchase a home,” she continued. “I have been working for years to fix that process, and I signed legislation to that effect this past session.”
Sherry Bren, the former executive director of the South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program, shared with CNN the answers she provided to the AP’s questions, saying she had received a text message and an email from her supervisor asking her to go to the governor’s office for a meeting on the morning of July 27, 2020, to discuss the state’s appraiser certification procedures.
Bren would not comment on the contents of the meeting or Peters’ application.
The meeting was attended by Noem, Peters, Noem’s former Chief of Staff Tony Venhuizen and Noem’s former legal counsel Tom Hart, as well as South Dakota Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman, Bren’s supervisor and director of Labor and Management Amber Mulder, and senior staff attorney Graham Oey, according to Bren. Bren said Oey and Venhuizen attended via telephone.
Bren left the agency in March after filing an age discrimination complaint at the end of December and receiving a $200,000 settlement to withdraw her claim.
“The Associated Press is disparaging the Governor’s daughter in order to attack the Governor politically — no wonder Americans’ trust in the media is at an all-time low. South Dakota is open for business. We won’t allow bureaucratic red tape to get in the way of South Dakota’s sustained economic growth,” Noem’s Communications Director Ian Fury said in a statement to CNN. “Having more quality appraisers in the market will help keep our housing market moving and home prices down.”
In a statement to CNN, Hultman said, “Kassidy Peters went through the same process as other appraisers. There was no denial. Mrs. Peters completed the requirements to become licensed, and she was subsequently certified in November.”
Following The Associated Press report, the state attorney general’s office and a state senator said the matter would be reviewed.
On Wednesday, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, a Republican, said in a statement to CNN, “I have been contacted by concerned citizens and legislators. I am actively reviewing their concerns and I will be following the steps prescribed in codified law in relation to those questions.”
South Dakota State Senator Kyle Schoenfish, also a Republican, told CNN via email that “the issue will be added to the agenda of the next GOAC [Government Operations and Audit Committee] meeting scheduled for October 27-28.”
CNN has also reached out to Peters, Mulder, Oey, Hart, Venhuizen and South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program Director Scott Amundson for comment.
Peters told the AP in a statement that her “upgrade to become a Certified Residential Appraiser was very lengthy and I was expected to navigate through many obstacles from the very beginning,” she said. “I’m glad I have it now and that I have the privilege to serve my clients in South Dakota.”
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