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Sept. 28, 2021, 8:26 a.m. EDT

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem called 2020 meeting of top state officials after daughter was denied real-estate-appraiser certification

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Juelfs’s letter blasted the application evaluation for lacking “timeliness and professionalism” and said the examiner reviewing Peters’s work had “acted unprofessional when conversing with Kassidy.”

Peters agreed with the criticism in a statement to AP.

“My upgrade to become a Certified Residential Appraiser was very lengthy and I was expected to navigate through many obstacles from the very beginning,” she said. “I’m glad I have it now and that I have the privilege to serve my clients in South Dakota.”

Bren declined to discuss the certification of any individual appraisers, including Peters. However, speaking broadly about the agency, she said she hoped to help applicants succeed while making sure they met federal requirements.

“You also want to be fair and consistent and treat all your appraisers the same,” she said.

Labor Secretary Hultman, in response to questions from the AP, declined to delve into details of Peters’ application or explain the discrepancy between Juelfs’s letter, which said the upgrade had been denied, and department records, which showed a denial was not ultimately issued.

“Kassidy Peters went through the same process as other appraisers. There was no denial,” Hultman said in a statement. “Mrs. Peters completed the requirements to become licensed, and she was subsequently certified in November.”

Bren’s troubles began to mount almost immediately after Peters’s Nov. 25 certification. One day earlier, Hultman had called Bren to discuss “concerns about the Appraiser Certification Program,” according to Bren’s age discrimination complaint. On Dec. 1, the complaint alleged, Hultman called Bren to demand her retirement, saying she had shown an “inability to change gears.”

From the archives (June 2021): Federal judge rebuffs South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s effort to force National Park Service to allow Mount Rushmore fireworks

Hultman told Bren that the phone call was to be kept a secret from her direct supervisor to make it appear Bren’s retirement was her choice, the complaint alleged.

Over the ensuing weeks, Hultman did not yield in demanding a retirement date, even after Bren asked if there was any way to keep her job, emails obtained by the AP show.

Bren filed her age-discrimination complaint at the end of December and, three months later, received the $200,000 settlement agreement to withdraw the complaint and leave her job. When asked about Bren, Hultman declined to discuss “the specifics of personnel decisions.”

Mark Miller, the governor’s current general counsel, said in a statement, “Neither party admitted fault, and no agency affirmed her claim. This sideshow regarding Kassidy Peters speaks for itself.”

Fury, the governor’s spokesman, cast the episode as an example of how Noem “won’t allow bureaucratic red tape to get in the way of South Dakota’s sustained economic growth.”

“Having more quality appraisers in the market will help keep our housing market moving and home prices down,” he said.

A few days before signing the agreement, Bren sent an email to industry colleagues expressing worry about the future of the program. “I have been forced to retire by the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Regulation at the behest of the Administration,” she wrote, then added, “I want each of you to know that I have sincerely done everything possible to avoid this unfortunate circumstance.”

Read on: South Dakota attorney general taking plea deal rather than face trial over highway pedestrian fatality, says prosecutor

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