Sioux Falls transgender org getting legal advice after state cancels contract

Gov. Kristi Noem on Dec. 16 terminated the state's contract with The Transformation Project. Three days later, on Dec. 19, Department of Health Secretary Joan Adam announced her retirement.

The Transformation Project logo

SIOUX FALLS — The head of a Sioux Falls-based organization focused on transgender issues says she is seeking legal advice after the state terminated a contract with the organization on Dec. 16.

“Let us be clear: we firmly believe that the termination of our contract with the South Dakota Department of Health was unwarranted and that our organization has remained in compliance with the terms of the contract,” Transformation Project SD Executive Director Susan Williams wrote in an open letter to the Department of Health on Dec. 20.

Gov. Kristi Noem on Dec. 16 terminated the state's contract with The Transformation Project , an organization whose mission statement is to “support and empower transgender individuals and their families while educating communities in South Dakota and the surrounding region about gender identity and expression.”

Ian Fury, Noem’s chief spokesperson, told conservative online media outlet The Daily Signal that the contract “was signed without Gov. Noem’s prior knowledge or approval.”

Fury did not respond to a Forum News Service request for comment.


Department of Health Secretary Joan Adam announced her retirement today after about eight months in the position.
Contributed / South Dakota Department of Health

Three days later, on Dec. 19, the head of the state health department, Joan Adam, announced her retirement, although no direct link between the events has been acknowledged by the Noem administration. Adam served at the South Dakota Department of Health for a combined 20 years, including as Division Director for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, Division Director for Administration, and Secretary of Health.

In a statement on the organization’s Twitter page, Williams said that she is seeking legal advice on the situation. She told Forum News Service she is "just getting advice at this point."

In the Dec. 16 termination letter, signed by Department of Health Deputy Secretary Lynne Valenti, the department claimed that The Transformation Project had “failed to perform” its obligations and was “in material breach” of the contract.

The contract — scheduled to end on May 31, 2023, and worth $136,000 — called for the organization to create a Community Health Worker program with at least one staff member. According to the Department of Health, a community health worker serves, “as a liaison between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.”

Fury told the Daily Signal that one example of how the organization engaged in a breach of the contract was a “failure to submit required quarterly reports.”

“South Dakota does not support this organization’s efforts, and state government should not be participating in them,” Fury told The Daily Signal in a statement. “We should not be dividing our youth with radical ideologies. We should treat every single individual equally as a human being.”

In the statement announcing Adam’s retirement, Noem thanked the former department secretary for her service.

“Joan has lived a life of service to the Pierre community and to the people of South Dakota,” Noem wrote. “She has been able to put families first because she recognizes the importance of her own family. I am grateful for her advice and wish her the best on everything that she does.”


The Transformation Project and Sanford Health are co-sponsoring an upcoming conference for medical professionals, the Third Annual Midwest Gender Identity Summit . That event is Jan. 13, 2023, at Sanford Research Center and online.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at
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