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Gov. Noem places Secretary of Corrections and Warden on leave

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Mike Leidholt

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem placed Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young on administrative leave after an internal review following the receipt of an anonymous complaint.

Tuesday night, Governor Noem was briefed on a summary of an internal review conducted by the South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources that was prepared as part of an investigation following an anonymous complaint. 

The complaint made allegations that penitentiary staff felt insulted by their leadership. Other complaints included non-competitive pay, benefits and low quality equipment for employees. The complaint went on to allege that raises and promotions were based on sycophancy and nepotism instead of competence. Other allegations included officers in charge using their authority to persuade subordinates in a sexual manner.

“My top priority as governor is keeping South Dakotans safe, and that includes the men and women who work at the State Penitentiary and those who are confined there,” Gov. Noem said.

The Governor announced that she will appoint Tim Reisch to serve as interim Secretary of Corrections. Reisch retired in 2019 after eight years as Adjutant General of the South Dakota National Guard. From 2003 to 2011, Reisch served as Secretary of Corrections. Prior to that time, he also served as Deputy Secretary of Corrections and as Miner County sheriff. His appointment is effective immediately.

Gov. Noem also announced that Doug Clark, the Deputy Secretary of Corrections, is stepping in as acting warden of the State Penitentiary until a longer-term interim can be named. The Governor has also assigned two members of her cabinet to work from the Penitentiary and assist Acting Warden Clark in addressing this internal review: Darin Seeley, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Human Resources (BHR), and Laurie Gill, the Secretary of Social Services and a former BHR Commissioner and Mayor of Pierre.

Noem has instructed General Reisch, Acting Warden Clark, Secretary Gill and Commissioner Seeley to take immediate action to address this internal review and to commission an independent third party to investigate the penitentiary and offer additional recommendations.

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