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Winner chief suspended, DCI investigating

WINNER -- An investigation by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation is reportedly related to the suspension of the chief of police in Winner.

Paul Schueth was suspended Jan. 5, according to Frank Finney, a Ward 1 city councilman in Winner and a member of the council's Police Committee. He said the suspension is in effect while the DCI conducts an investigation involving Schueth.

According to the Winner Advocate newspaper, City Attorney Stan Whiting said the focus of the investigation is finding the individual who approved utilizing the surveillance feed from the Tripp County Courthouse on a computer in the police station.

In addition to the suspension of the police chief, City Councilman Tim Meiners has voluntarily stepped down from his seat on the council, according to the Advocate. Neither the Advocate's story nor The Daily Republic's reporting turned up any publicly known reason for the resignation.

Finney, who spoke with The Daily Republic, said Schueth's suspension was not a decision made by the council but rather by Mayor Jess Keesis and City Attorney Whiting.

Calls to both Keesis and Whiting were not returned Wednesday. Finney said much of the reasoning for the suspension was discussed in a closed meeting, and he therefore thinks he should refrain from discussing too much publicly.

"It's a conflict between the city and the county," Finney said. "The information has not been made public yet."

Finney said Schueth was a "longtime" law enforcement agent in the area.

"He's probably one of the most senior law enforcement officials in the state," Finney said.

Tresh Swedlund, a Tripp County commissioner, said he has "no idea" why the city of Winner suspended Schueth and offered no further comment on the matter.

The city and county governments are not unfamiliar with conflict.

In December, the Tripp County commissioners rejected a jail contract offered by the city and the Tripp County Sheriff's Office.

As a result, 16 prisoners were moved from the Winner jail and relocated in other counties.

Those prisoners, plus three others, were back in Winner as of noon Wednesday, according to Tripp County Sheriff Chip Schroeder.

Finney said a new contract, which kept the $45 per day per prisoner fee from the previously rejected contract, was approved and signed Tuesday.

"I'm sure everybody wanted them back," Finney said Wednesday. "We're in business for another year."

The jail itself was a controversial project.

Approximately $3 million worth of renovations and expansions were completed in 2006, doubling the number of prisoners the facility could store and adding security cameras.

A group of inmates who escaped from a portion of the building not under construction were quickly apprehended in September 2004, and a flood filled the project's footings in 2005 and exposed leaks in the older part of the building's roof.