“My daughter went through the exact same process that others did in South Dakota to become an appraiser,” Noem tweeted Friday. “She was treated no different. And I never asked for her to get special treatment.”
In the tweet, Noem linked to a nearly three-minute YouTube video she had filmed, titled “The Facts on South Dakota Appraiser Certification,” in which she blasted “speculation and innuendo in the media” and said that she had raised her daughter to accomplish things on her own.
Noem did acknowledge her administration had been “fixing” the certification process to make it easier for people in South Dakota to become real estate appraisers, because the requirements were making it “way too difficult.”
“Appraisers weren’t getting certified, and South Dakotans were having to wait much longer to buy a home than in other states,” Noem said in the video. “This system had been broken for decades. It was designed to benefit those who are already certified and to keep others out. The person in charge of the appraisal certification process had been in that role for 40 years.”
That person was Sherry Bren, the head of the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation’s appraiser certification program. Noem reportedly organized a meeting in her office on July 27, 2020, to discuss “appraiser certification procedures” that included her daughter Kassidy Peters, Bren, Bren’s supervisor and South Dakota Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman.
While Noem’s daughter secured her certification a few months later, in November 2020, Bren said she was subsequently pushed to retire in a conversation with Hultman, according to an age-discrimination complaint Bren eventually filed against the Department of Labor and Regulation.
Bren settled with the state for $200,000 on March 31 of this year, but the department did not admit fault and Bren agreed not to disparage it in public, according to a copy of the complaint shared by South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
Bren told the Associated Press that she was presented during the meeting with a letter from Noem’s daughter’s supervisor complaining about a lack of “timeliness and professionalism” in the certification process. The letter stated that the application for a license upgrade had been denied, but state records reportedly show an official denial was never issued.
When the AP first reported on the 2020 meeting Monday, Noem slammed the media as “trying to destroy my children” but did not address the issue. On Wednesday, she posted two tweets that said she had heard “for years” how difficult it was to become an appraiser in South Dakota and that she had been “working for years to fix that process,” including signing legislation to that effect this past season.
The state’s attorney general, Republican Jason Ravnsborg, said Tuesday that citizens and legislators had contacted him with concerns about Noem’s 2020 meeting and that he was “actively reviewing their concerns.” South Dakota state legislators on both sides of the aisle have said they have further questions about Noem’s meeting.
In Friday’s YouTube video, Noem said her daughter had taken 200 hours of appraisal education, worked in the industry for more than year and passed “background checks and many examinations.”
“During that time, she gained the knowledge and experience necessary so that South Dakotans can trust her work, and Kassidy’s direct supervisor praised her work ethic and competence,” Noem added.
Noem said her administration has since made changes to “streamline” the licensure process, including eliminating certain exams.
“We’ve been working for three years now to eliminate barriers to licensure,” she said. “We want to roll out the red carpet and cut the red tape.”
Friday’s YouTube video capped off a tumultuous week for Noem, a close ally of former president Donald Trump who is among the Republicans considered likely to run for president in 2024. Earlier in the week, Noem was also the target of a conservative media outlet’s claim that she was having an extramarital affair with one of Trump’s former advisers, which she dismissed as “total garbage and a disgusting lie.”
On Thursday, Noem announced she had severed ties with the adviser, Corey Lewandowski, after allegations arose that he had sexually harassed a Trump donor at a Las Vegas dinner.