SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem late Tuesday suspended her cabinet secretary overseeing state prisons and the warden of the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls, following an anonymous complaint that alleged supervising corrections officers regularly sexually harassed their fellow employees, employee morale is low and promotions are plagued by nepotism.
The governor said she was briefed around 7 p.m. on an internal review from the Bureau of Human Resources that was prompted by the anonymous complaint. Less than three hours later, Noem said she was putting Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young on administrative leave and commissioning an investigation into the allegations.
The two pages of the complaint released by Noem’s office do not name either Leidholt or Young, but allege that supervising corrections officers at the prison were allowed to sexually harass employees and that attempts to report the harassment were ignored. The complaint states that schedules at the prison were adjusted so that the officers could “work in the same vicinities as their interest/victims.” It also alleges that employees who did not give in to the harassment were made to ”suffer by being placed in less desirable posts or something of the sort.”
The complaint further alleges that employee morale was low amid wages that lagged behind other industries, corrections officers did not have body armor that was “up to standards,” and that promotions were based on personal connections.
Requests for comment sent to the government-issued emails for Leidholt and Young were not immediately returned.
Noem said she has assigned two members of her cabinet to conduct an internal review of the prison, as well as commission a third-party investigation.
Noem also appointed Tim Reisch, who worked as corrections secretary from 2003 to 2011, as the interim head of the Department of Corrections. She temporarily appointed Doug Clark, the deputy secretary of corrections, as acting warden of the state penitentiary, but said she planned to find someone else to oversee the prison.