SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Ethics experts are questioning whether South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem had a conflict of interest by meeting with her daughter and top state officials last year in the governor’s office while her daughter was pursuing a real estate certification.
Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, was seeking a credential that would open the door to higher earnings in her field. But a July 27, 2020, letter from her supervisor said that Peters had been denied the upgrade.
Gov. Kristi Noem summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman’s direct supervisor and the state labor secretary.
Noem’s daughter attended too.
Peters, then 26, ultimately obtained the certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting at her mother’s office. A week after that, the labor secretary called the agency head, Sherry Bren, to demand her retirement, according to an age discrimination complaint Bren filed against the department. Bren, 70, ultimately left her job this past March after the state paid her $200,000 to withdraw the complaint.
Exactly what transpired at the July 27, 2020, meeting in the governor’s office isn’t clear. Noem declined an interview request and her office declined to answer detailed questions about the meeting.
Still, government ethics experts who reviewed the series of events at the AP’s request said Noem’s decision to include her daughter in the meeting created a conflict of interest regardless of what was discussed.
September 28, 2021