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Noem has been accused of strong-arming the state into giving her daughter a real estate license. Days after Kassidy Peters’ application to become a certified real estate appraiser was rejected, Noem brought the employee in charge of the relevant agency, as well as the woman’s supervisor and the state labor secretary, to her office. Noem’s daughter was also present at the meeting, the Associated Press reported.
The 70-year-old head of the state’s appraiser program, Sherry Bren, was forced out from the job a week later. Kassidy’s application was approved four months later.
The allegations of nepotism capped a disastrous week; she was forced to deny reports of an affair with political aide Corey Lewandowski but cut ties with him a day later after a major Trump donor accused him of sexual harassment.
Noem has not answered questions from reporters on the nepotism allegations, instead choosing to release a video and a few tweets that avoided addressing key details. She did not deny the facts of the story.
In her video, she claimed she had actually been trying to reform the real estate appraiser system in South Dakota after “hearing for years” how difficult it was to become an appraiser.
“This system had been broken for decades,” she said. “It was designed to benefit those that were already certified and to keep others out.”
Without naming Bren, she said the person in charge of the system had been there for 40 years, and efforts to streamline the process had been unsuccessful.
“I had been working for years to fix it and I realized just how hard it was over the last couple of years to fix it,” she said.
However, Noem didn’t address why her then-26-year-old daughter Kassidy attended the meeting with Bren and other top officials if they were simply about reforming the system. She also didn’t address why Kassidy failed to obtain a license, and how she obtained one four months later.
All Noem said was that Kassidy “followed all the same steps” as any other would-be appraiser, including doing 200 hours of appraisal education and working 1500 hours over a year.
“Those are the facts but the media is ignoring those facts,” she said. “They’d rather attack my daughter to score cheap political points against me.”
Government ethics experts consulted by the Associated Press called the matter a clear “conflict of interest and an abuse of power” and the state’s Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg, said he would be examining it after being contacted “by concerned citizens and legislators.”
Ravnsborg’s involvement signaled an ironic twist in fortunes. Noem had demanded Ravnsborg’s resignation earlier this year after it emerged that he had killed a man while driving then claimed he thought he hit a deer. He pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors, faced no trial, and refused to resign.