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Contentious police chief issue shapes Danube City Council pick

DANUBE -- Differences over how the Danube City Council should handle its police chief controversy played a prominent role in the recent appointment of a new member.

Council members voted 2-1 on Dec. 23 to appoint Bob Simpson to fill the remaining term of Les Schneider Sr., according to minutes of the meeting.

Schneider is the father of the police chief and resigned his position on the council in November.

Police Chief Les Schneider Jr., 40, and his wife, Jammie Jean Schneider, 38, were charged in July with counts of felony theft, and theft - indifferent to owner rights.

Council members have been at odds over whether or not to place the chief on paid administrative leave while the case is pending in district court.

Council member Sharon Lothert has favored placing the chief on leave.

She nominated Darrell Mattson to fill the vacant City Council post at the Dec. 23 meeting.

Lothert said Mattson is a former city employee familiar with its maintenance and other needs, and has expressed his willingness to serve.

Her motion to appoint Mattson failed to win a second, and did not go to a vote.

Council member Al Strunc said that putting Mattson on the council was a "back door" way of putting the police chief on leave, according to the minutes. He said that there are already two council members in favor of putting the chief on leave, and if Mattson supported them, there would be a majority in favor of doing so.

Strunc is against putting the chief on leave, the minutes stated.

Strunc also expressed concerns that Mattson was possibly a disgruntled former city employee.

Council member Ryan Bentley also stated his opposition to appointing Mattson.

Bentley made the motion to appoint Bob Simpson to the council. The motion carried with Strunc and Bentley voting in favor. Lothert voted against it, stating that she did not know Simpson. Simpson's name had originally been raised for consideration by Mayor Gene Allex.

After the vote, Lothert challenged Strunc on his vote, charging that he had voted for a nominee he did not know.

The criminal allegations against the chief and his spouse are scheduled be heard in court this month.

The criminal complaint alleges that Les Schneider wrote three checks of $4,640 from the Danube Fire Department's smelt fry account to his wife in 2006 while he was serving as the department's chief. She placed the funds in their checking account, and they allegedly used the money for their own use, including paying a couple of mortgage payments, according to the complaint. The funds were subsequently replaced in the account.

Tom Cherveny

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

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