Governor Noem suspends two prison heads following harassment complaint

Gov. Kristi Noem has suspended her cabinet secretary overseeing state prisons and the warden of the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls after an anonymous complaint. The complaint alleges supervising corrections officers regularly sexually harassed their fellow employees, employee morale is low and promotions are plagued by nepotism. The governor put Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young on administrative leave. The two pages of the complaint released by Noem’s office allege that supervising corrections officers were allowed to sexually harass prison employees and that attempts to report the harassment were ignored.

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.

Governor 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; and Laurie Gill, the Secretary of Social Services and a former BHR Commissioner and Mayor of Pierre.

Governor 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.