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Noem draws scrutiny for meeting with official as daughter sought state license
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) called the head of the state agency that oversees appraiser certifications to her office after the agency allegedly denied her daughter's application to become a certified residential appraiser last year.
The meeting, which was reported on Monday by The Associated Press, also included Noem's daughter Kassidy Peters and South Dakota Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman.
Peters was granted her residential appraiser certification four months after the meeting with Noem, Hultman and Sherry Bren, the now-former executive director of the South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program, according to the AP.
It's unclear what exactly unfolded during the meeting or why Peters attended. Noem's communications director, Ian Fury, cast the story as politically motivated and accused the news outlet of attacking the governor's daughter.
"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," Fury said in a statement.
Fury also argued that having more certified appraisers is inherently good because it "will help keep our housing market moving and home prices down."
"South Dakota is open for business," he said. "We won't allow bureaucratic red tape to get in the way of South Dakota's sustained economic growth."
Noem also took to Twitter to accuse the media of "trying to destroy" her children.
Becoming a certified residential appraiser is not an easy process, requiring hundreds of hours of classroom instruction as well as on-the-job experience.
Peters began working as a state-registered appraiser in 2016 as she sought to become a certified appraiser. She applied to become a certified residential appraiser in 2019, but her application was ultimately denied in July 2020.
Shortly after that, Bren was summoned to Noem's office for a meeting and was told to be prepared to discuss "appraiser certification procedures," the AP reported. Bren told the AP in an interview that the meeting lasted close to an hour and that Noem asked her questions about the certification process.
Bren also told the AP that she had been presented with a letter from Peters's supervisor during the meeting expressing frustration that her application had been denied and blaming an "inefficient process" for the decision. However, department records show that a denial had never been issued - a discrepancy that Hultman declined to explain in a statement to the AP.
"Kassidy Peters went through the same process as other appraisers. There was no denial," Hultman said. "Mrs. Peters completed the requirements to become licensed, and she was subsequently certified in November."
After Peters was ultimately granted her residential appraiser certification, Hultman reportedly called Bren to demand that she retire, prompting Bren to file an age discrimination complaint. She eventually withdrew the complaint and left her job in March after reaching a $200,000 settlement agreement.