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Danube Council to investigate charges against police chief

DANUBE -- City Council members in Danube took no formal action Monday in response to recent criminal charges filed against the city's chief of police, but there was a consensus to investigate the allegations further, according to City Attorney Aaron Walton.

The Danube City Council met in closed session to discuss the matter. It was the first opportunity for the full council to meet in response to the charges filed against Police Chief Lester Leon Schneider Jr., 39.

He will continue to serve full time as chief in the community of 560 people and will not be placed on administrative leave.

He is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on the charges against him Aug. 27.

Criminal complaints were filed July 17 in district court in Renville County. Schneider faces one count of felony theft and two counts of felony theft - indifferent to owner.

He 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.

His wife, Jammie Jean Schneider, 38, is also charged with felony and gross misdemeanor charges of theft and theft - indifferent to owner.

Criminal complaints allege that Les Schneider was serving as assistant chief of the Danube Fire Department when he wrote three checks totaling $4,640 from its smelt fry fund to his wife in July, August and September of 2006. She allegedly placed the funds in their joint checking account and the two admitted using the money for their own use, including paying a couple of mortgage payments, according to the complaints. A deposit of $5,045 was made into the Danube Fire Department's smelt fry account on Oct. 31, 2006.

The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by a Kandiyohi County Sheriff's detective and turned over to the Meeker County Attorney's office at the request of the respective Renville County offices.

Schneider has served as police chief in Danube since the early 1990s, and his father, Lester Schneider Sr., is a member of the City Council and former mayor.

The city attorney said that the elder Schneider told council members at the onset of their discussions that he would not participate in them due to his relationship.

Council members met in closed session before reopening their meeting and taking comments from citizens who were present. Walton said council members agreed by consensus to investigate the charges on their own before they decide whether or not to take any action.

The attorney said he assured citizens at the meeting that the chief remains responsible to and for enforcing the law.

Walton noted that the criminal complaint represents allegations only and that the chief is presumed innocent.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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