South Dakota Gov Kristi Noem contradicted her own labor secretary Thursday about a meeting last year in her office on the real estate appraiser licensing system shortly after her daughter had been denied a license.
Sec of Labor Marcia Hultman told a legislative hearing last week that the meeting included a brief discussion about a plan that was already in place to give Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, another opportunity to obtain her license, but the governor said at a Thursday news conference there was no such discussion.
It was the first time Noem had addressed the issue of the meeting, which included her daughter and several state officials, since The Associated Press first reported on it more than a month ago.
A legislative committee and the state government ethics board have both been looking into the issue, but Noem blasted the AP story as “twisted” and “manipulated,” insisting the meeting consisted primarily of potential fixes for a shortage of licensed appraisers with her daughter there to give personal experiences about the process.
In the original AP story, longtime Appraiser Certification program director Sherry Bren said she was presented at the meeting with a letter for Peters’ supervisor slamming her denial of a license.
Peters received her license 4 months after the meeting and Bren retired not long after that, later saying Labor Sec Hultman pressured her to do so. Bren filed an age discrimination suit and received a $200,000 settlement from the state.
The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee has requested copies of the agreements between Peters and the licensing agency, but Noem has refused, saying it would set a precedent of opening personnel files to the public.
Asked if she would allow the documents to be opened because the agreements themselves say they are open to public inspection, Noem said she’d leave the open records question to her attorneys.
The Dept of Labor and Regulation has rejected a public records request from The AP and an appeals officer backed the department.