SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two Democratic lawmakers said they had questions about the $200,000 settlement payment to a former state employee as reported on Sept. 27 by the Associated Press.
“I’d like to know where the money ($200,000) came from and why we were kept in the dark,” Democratic Senator Troy Heinert, of Mission, said. “Anytime you are dealing with state funds, the Legislature should be aware of it.”
Gov. Kristi Noem had met with Sherry Bren, who had directed the Appraiser Certification Program, Marcia Hultman, the director of the state’s Department of Labor and Regulation and Bren’s director supervisor after Noem’s daughter Kassidy Peters had been denied a real estate appraiser certification, the Associated Press said in its story. Bren was later asked to resign and she filed complaint, the story said. Bren and the state later reached a $200,000 settlement, according to the story.
Rep. Erin Healy, a Democrat from Sioux Falls, has the same concern as Heinert.
“The public too, should have questions,” Healy said. “Those are tax dollars, state money that is being utilized.”
Of the five Republicans who could be reached by KELOLAND News on Sept. 28, only one commented.
Republican Senator Maggie Sutton, of Sioux Falls, said she has questions about the meeting and settlement reported on Sept. 27 by the Associated Press but on her list of priorities, it’s definitely not at the top. Sutton said medicaid, COVID-19 vaccine mandates, redistricting and medical marijuana are issues that top her priority list.
Sutton said if constituents have questions about the AP story, they should contact the lawmakers that represent them. Her top priorities are those shared by her constituents, she said.
“I know she (Noem) is very good about consulting her legal team,” Sutton said.
“This needs to be looked at. If it wasn’t illegal it sure seems unethical,” Heinert said.
In correspondence quoted in the AP story several state officials described the appraisal application process as inefficient and Noem’s daughter’s case illustrated a faulty process.
Healy said she’s curious if any other applicants had an experience that would be similar to what those state officials described.
From what Healy could discern from another media source on the situation, Bren made an ethical decision and took Peters’ request to an out-of-state official to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
Healy and Heinert said the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee may be the committee likely to review or start the review of the situation.
KELOLAND News attempted to contact 15 Republican lawmakers by phone or email and reached five.
Representative Hugh Bartels, Rep. Doug Barthel, Rep. Sydney Davis, and Sen. Jim Bolin all declined to comment. All said they did not have enough information to comment.