PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota House of Representatives has decided against making an official statement criticizing Governor Kristi Noem for her behavior regarding Sherry Bren and the state real-estate appraisers certification office.
House members on Tuesday voted 38-29 against the resolution from Representative John Mills, a Volga Republican.
HR 7004 described the Republican governor’s actions in the matter as “unacceptable, were injurious to the people of South Dakota, resulted in an unnecessary expenditure of state tax dollars, and were detrimental to the morale and steadfast dedication of our hard-working state employees.”
Noem’s administration paid a $200,000 settlement to Bren after she was forced to retire and sued, alleging an employment violation. That came after the governor’s daughter Kassidy initially failed to advance beyond basic appraiser certification.
Mills said that neither representative planning to challenge the governor’s re-election, Republican Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls and House Democrat leader Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls, knew about the resolution before he filed it.
“Right now, it’s just one man’s opinion,” Mills said. He added, “I can’t help these circumstances appear in an election year.”
The eight House Democrats including Smith voted for the resolution. Haugaard was excused for the vote, as were Republicans Taffy Howard of Rapid City and Sue Peterson of Sioux Falls.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch of Glenham, speaker pro tem Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids and House Appropriations chairman Chris Karr of Sioux Falls were among the 21 Republicans who voted for the resolution.
House Republican leader Kent Peterson of Salem and assistant Republican leader Chris Johnson of Rapid City were among the 38 voting against the resolution.
Johnson interrupted Mills about three minutes into his remarks and charged that Mills was violating legislative rule 1B-1 that says lawmakers must maintain ethical standards.
Speaker Gosch ruled that Mills hadn’t gone over the line. Johnson challenged the ruling. The House sided with the speaker 53-14.
(Audio of the House consideration of Mills’ resolution is here, starting at about the 10:30 mark.)
Mills resumed his remarks. As his five-minute limit approached, Representative Rhonda Milstead, R-Hartford, allotted her time to him. Noem had vetoed Milstead’s anti-transgender female-sports bill last year, then pushed her own bill through this year. When Mills finished, Peterson called the question, cutting off further comments.
The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee looked into the Noem-Bren matter last year and a bipartisan group of GOAC members brought legislation to formally establish the appraiser’s advisory council in state law. House members voted 60-4 for it, but the Senate killed it 22-13 so that it wouldn’t reach Noem’s desk.
“The resolution is filled with lies,” Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury told The Associated Press, whose reporter Stephen Groves broke the story last year. “Kassidy received no special treatment, and her agreement was in the works before the meeting.”
According to AP, Fury asserted that last year’s legislative inquiry “found no wrongdoing,” though the committee did not issue any final assessment. Also, three out of the five House lawmakers who served on the committee voted for the resolution.
Fury pointed out to AP that the House speaker could have assigned the resolution to a committee, where it would have had a more robust hearing. “I’m done talking about this political hit job,” Fury said. “The governor is focused on serving the people.”