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Council in Danube at center of controversy

DANUBE -- Controversy continues to dog Danube in the wake of criminal charges filed against the city's police chief, Les Schneider Jr.

The police chief's father, Les Schneider Sr., has resigned from the Danube City Council, but fired a parting salvo at a fellow council member in the process.

In a letter presented to individual City Council members last Wednesday, Schneider said he was resigning from the council.

He expressed concerns that a City Council member -- Sharon Lothert said she is the target of the letter -- is getting paid beyond her council salary for work being performed for the city.

Schneider said in the letter that the council member is being paid for cleaning the city's community center and city offices, and received pay for making a bank deposit and taking care of some office duties while the clerk was ill and unable to work.

In the letter to council members, Schneider also said he is resigning because he has been accused by some of not having the best interests of the city at heart.

Contacted by the Tribune, Schneider acknowledged that he had submitted a letter of resignation and delivered the letter to council members explaining his action. He refused to discuss those reasons, but said it was up to the council members if they wished to make them known.

However, Schneider adamantly said that his resignation had "absolutely nothing to do'' with the Fox 9 News report on Nov. 3 about the controversy boiling in the Renville County community.

Council member Sharon Lothert has been the lone council member calling for Danube Police Chief Les Schneider Jr. to be placed on a leave of absence while he answers to charges of felony theft.

Lothert said she accepted the part-time work of cleaning the city community center and offices. She removed herself from the council table when the matter was discussed, and she did not participate in the vote to award her the work. She said Les Schneider Sr. was present and participated in the vote.

Lothert said she is to be paid for her cleaning work as per the agreement approved by the City Council. She did not submit a bill nor collect any compensation for making bank deposits or taking on any of the ill clerk's duties in her absence, Lothert said.

The job of cleaning the city's community center was held until last April by Jammie Jean Schneider, wife of the police chief and a co-defendant in the felony theft case, but she resigned the position. A successor to the position was dismissed.

Lothert said she believes that Les Schneider Sr. is "grasping'' in his letter to council members.

The court case against Police Chief Schneider, 39, and his wife Jammie, 38, is pending.

Both face felony charges of theft, and theft - indifferent to owner rights. A criminal complaint filed in July alleges that Les Schneider was serving as Danube fire chief and wrote three checks totaling $4,640 from the department's smelt fry account 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, the complaint states.

The two were to appear jointly for a hearing on whether probable cause existed for the charges on Nov. 25, but their omnibus hearing has now been postponed.

Both have retained new and separate counsel in their defense. Court documents indicate that the police chief has retained well-known defense attorney Earl Gray of St. Paul as his counsel, and that his wife has retained attorney Kent Marshall of Barrett.

The police chief remains on duty as the only full-time officer in the community of 529 people.

Tom Cherveny

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

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