S.D. legislative panel wants authority to seek documents in state appraisal office dispute

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A panel of state lawmakers meets next week to look for ways to learn more about a complex situation involving a daughter of South Dakota’s governor who was seeking to be a certified residential appraiser and a state official who said she was forced to retire from running the program.

The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee has scheduled a meeting at 8 a.m. Monday at the Capitol to discuss the role of the state Department of Labor and Regulation in the matter.

The committee also intends to discuss the role of the former executive director for the state’s real-estate appraisal program, Sherry Bren, who received a $200,000 payment from state government in exchange for dropping her employment-rights claim.

The committee’s vice chairman, Representative Randy Gross of Elkton, said Thursday that the panel also will talk about asking the Legislature’s Executive Board for authority to issue subpoenas for documents. State law says the committee can’t issue a subpoena without the Executive Board ratifying it.

Bren alleged in the complaint that state Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman told Bren, who was 70, to resign. That came in the wake of a meeting last year at the governor’s official residence in Pierre.

At the meeting were Governor Kristi Noem and her oldest daughter Kassidy Peters, who sought the certification, as well as Hultman and Bren. Also, there in person or by phone were the governor’s then-chief of staff, the governor’s then-legal counsel and two department lawyers who had involvement overseeing the real-estate appraisal program.

The meeting reportedly was the same day that Peters received a letter saying she hadn’t met state requirements to be a certified residential appraiser. Peters later was certified.

Hultman testified to the legislative committee October 28, 2021. She said the plan for Peters to seek additional education and training was in place prior to the meeting and that at least three other applicants received similar assistance this year.

Amber Mulder, one of the lawyers who was at the meeting, told the panel she didn’t think there were written guidelines for providing assistance to applicants. Hultman said there wasn’t any type of formal meeting to talk about an assistance plan for Peters.

Hultman said the purpose of the meeting at the governor’s mansion was to consider ways to get more real-estate appraisers qualified in South Dakota. Hultman said Peters’ situation was briefly discussed at the end of the meeting. Hultman said the governor didn’t intervene.

The governor later told reporters that her daughter’s situation wasn’t discussed at the meeting.

Hultman said Peters was there because of her experience in the certification process. Hultman acknowledged it wasn’t normal to have a participant present.

Neither Peters nor Bren has appeared before the committee.

Bren was scheduled to testify October 28, but her attorney on October 27 sent an email to the committee’s chairman, Senator Kyle Schoenfish, saying she wouldn’t appear. The attorney said the committee should contact him if lawmakers plan to subpoena Bren.

Bren signed a statement saying she wouldn’t make disparaging comments regarding the matter.

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