South Dakota GOP lawmakers summon two employees for Noem inquiry

A South Dakota state Senate committee has summoned two key players in a July 2020 meeting between Gov. Kristi Noem (R) and state employees who were considering her daughter's application to become a real estate appraiser.

The state legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee sent letters to South Dakota Secretary of Labor and Regulation Marcia Hultman and Sherry Bren, the now-former executive director of the state's Appraiser Certification Program, asking that they testify before the committee on Oct. 28. 

Both Hultman and Bren were present at a July 2020 meeting with Noem and her daughter Kassidy Peters, which had been called shortly after Bren's agency moved to deny Peters her residential appraiser certification. State Labor Department records show that a denial had never been issued.

Noem has said that the meeting was focused on fixing a "broken" system for certifying real estate appraisers that had made home buying more cumbersome.

But the meeting, which was first reported on last month by The Associated Press, has raised questions about whether Noem sought to interfere in the agency at a time when her daughter was seeking her real estate appraiser certification. Peters was ultimately granted her certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting took place.

Noem has denied that she intervened in the process to secure special treatment for her daughter.

The letters sent to Hultman and Bren did not address specifics about the Oct. 28 hearing, but the AP reported on Monday that Republican state lawmakers plan to ask why there was an apparent shortage of real estate appraisers during Bren's tenure as the Appraiser Certification Program's executive director.

The Government Operations and Audit Committee isn't the only body examining the July 2020 meeting. State Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) has said that his office is looking into the matter, as well.

Noem, a former House Republican who was elected governor in 2018, is seen as a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. She has sought to cast the controversy over the 2020 meeting as a political attack by members of the media, though she has not explained why her daughter attended the meeting.