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Former Corn Palace director still being investigated

It's been more than three months since former Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling resigned, but a criminal investigation into the circumstances that led to his resignation is still ongoing.

Mitchell Police Detective Lt. Don Everson confirmed Wednesday an investigation by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation involving Schilling is ongoing, but declined to discuss any specifics of the case.

Mayor Ken Tracy said Wednesday he believes the investigation is a continuation of one that began prior to Schilling's March 3 resignation, but admitted it's been at least a month since he has been in contact with DCI.

"I think they would notify me of what their results are, but I have not heard that at this point," Tracy said.

Tracy said the last time he was contacted by DCI he was told most of the interviews needed for the investigation had been completed, but the case had not been closed.

"I have not really heard anything since that time," he said. "What action or activities they might be undertaking, I do not know at this point."

Schilling resigned after a state audit of the Corn Palace's finances found he routinely counted money from the city-owned arena and tourist attraction's cash registers alone in his office, failed to keep and maintain proper financial records, and misused a city credit card on multiple occasions.

Tracy asked for Schilling's resignation after Tracy was shown the initial results of the audit. The 20-page audit report was released to the public about two weeks after Schilling's resignation was announced at a March 3 City Council meeting.

At the time, Tracy said he did not have evidence to suggest Schilling stole money or committed any crimes, but did confirm DCI was already looking into the matter.

The Daily Republic has been unable to contact Schilling since his resignation.

According to the state's audit report, Schilling, who was director of the Corn Palace for 13 years, told the auditors he normally took the cash tills from the cash registers, along with a detailed record of the transactions, to his office and counted the cash, checks and credit card transactions by himself, with no one else present. He would then discard the detailed transaction records from the registers.

Russ Olson, an audit manager with the South Dakota Department of Legislative Audit who performed the audit, told the City Council at a meeting March 17 those records were critical to the maintaining adequate records of the Corn Palace's finances.

The state's audit report describes at least seven instances in which Schilling made improperly documented or unusual charges to a city-issued credit card.

Those included a $3,587.90 charge to American Airlines Vacations for which the only documentation included was a confirmation statement from the airline, which did not include any details of the destination, travelers or accommodations -- a violation of city policy, the report says.

The charge was later determined to be for two individuals, Schilling and Assistant Corn Palace Director Jeri Mickelson, for a trip to Las Vegas to attend the Academy of Country Music Awards.