The Associated Press is reporting that South Dakota governor Kristi Noem called a July 27, 2020 meeting with her daughter and the head of the state’s real-estate Appraiser Certification Program — as well as the agency head’s direct supervisor and the South Dakota labor secretary — soon after Noem’s daughter had been denied a real-estate-appraiser license for failing to meet “minimum compliance with national standards.” Then, a few months later, Kassidy Noem Peters, 26, was a certified real-estate appraiser. The AP writes:
Just days after a South Dakota agency moved to deny her daughter’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser, Gov. Kristi Noem summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman’s direct supervisor and the state labor secretary.
Noem’s daughter attended too.
Kassidy Peters, then 26, ultimately obtained the certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting at her mother’s office. A week after that, the labor secretary called the agency head, Sherry Bren, to demand her retirement, according to an age discrimination complaint Bren filed against the department. Bren, 70, ultimately left her job this past March after the state paid her $200,000 to withdraw the complaint.
Exactly what transpired at the July 27, 2020, meeting in the governor’s office isn’t clear. Noem declined an interview request and her office declined to answer detailed questions about the meeting.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a longer piece about problems with corruption in Governor Noem’s office, primarily concerning her close relationship to powerful business with a long record of far-left social-policy advocacy — some of which it had financial stake in. In light of this, her decision in March to veto a bill that would have banned biological men from competing in women’s sports seemed suspect. But I also touched on allegations of nepotism during her first term as governor:
Although Noem has been governor only since 2019, her office has already been the subject of ethical scrutiny on multiple occasions. One of the first four employees she hired for her transition team in 2018 was her daughter, Kennedy Noem, still a student at South Dakota State University at the time of her hiring. Over the course of the two years she worked for her mother, Kennedy enjoyed more than $17,000 in raises — from $40,700 to $57,912 — at the taxpayers’ expense, including a 12 percent wage boost in the midst of a wage freeze that Noem had imposed on all other state employees in December 2020. That, paired with the fact that Kyle Peters, the husband of Noem’s older daughter, took a $60,000 salary in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development from the beginning of Noem’s term through June of this year, prompted a Republican state senator to introduce an anti-nepotism bill aiming to bar state officials from hiring relatives.
As always, we should let all of the facts come out before rushing to judgment. But it doesn’t look great for Noem. And there’s already evidence that, at the very least, she might be less concerned about ethical lines when it comes to her family.
It doesn’t help that Noem’s office is choosing a very odd line of spin on the whole affair. The AP reports:
Fury, the governor’s spokesman, cast the episode as an example of how Noem “won’t allow bureaucratic red tape to get in the way of South Dakota’s sustained economic growth.”
“Having more quality appraisers in the market will help keep our housing market moving and home prices down,” he said.
I guess that’s one way to put it.