Editorial: Danube's situation is bad for everyone
Taking an active role in government can be a challenge -- both in time commitment and in responsibilities-- for any individual. It can be even more challenging within a small town -- due to personality conflicts and conflicts of interest that can develop.
Such is the case in Danube, a community of 529 people in Renville County this year.
Conflicts have arisen in Danube since the community's Police Chief Les Schneider Jr. and his wife Jammie were charged in July with felony theft and theft-indifferent to owner rights. Schneider Jr. is also charged with gross misdemeanor charges of theft - indifferent to owner right and misconduct of a public officer, and a misdemeanor charge of receiving unauthorized compensation as a public officer.
The criminal complaint alleges that Schneider wrote three checks totaling $4,640 from the department's smelt fry account to his wife in 2006. She allegedly deposited the money in their personal account and used the funds to pay mortgage and other bills. The couple later reimbursed the amount they withdrew from the fund.
The court case against Les Jr. and Jammie Schneider is pending as their omnibus hearing, scheduled for Nov. 25, has been postponed.
The case is further complicated by the fact that Schneider Jr. serves on the fire department and has previously held a leadership position in the department. The Mayor, Gene Allex Sr., and council member Ryan Bentley are current members of the Danube Fire Department and have served there with Schneider Jr. in the past.
The police chief's father, Les Schneider Sr., has been a longtime member of the City Council and has previously served as the community's mayor.
Needless to say, these relationships have raised the question of and the appearance of conflicts of interest when the council decided in August to allow Schneider Jr. to continue serving as police chief while his charges were pending. The story of Danube's police chief has recently drawn interest from a Twin Cities television station.
Council member Les Schneider Sr. has now resigned from the city council. He expressed frustration that some believe he did not have the best interest of the city at heart.
The decision to resign was likely a tough one for Schneider Sr. as he has been a longtime council member as well as mayor. The charges again his son and daughter-in-law as well have been tough for Schneider Sr.
Schneider Sr.'s resignation decision appears to put the interest of the city ahead of his wish to serve and his family's interest. Without Schneider Sr., now the Danube City Council can address the future of Schneider Jr. more clearly at the appropriate time. We commend him for his decision.
Les Jr. and Jammie Schneider deserve their day in court and are innocent until proven otherwise.
All of this attention has been unfortunate for Danube, its city government and its citizens. It has not been bad for anyone involved.