Rhinelander City Administrator Subject Of Felony Investigation

27 Pieces Of Evidence Seized In Search

Rhinelander City Hall
Investigators from the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office executed search warrants at the Rhinelander City Hall, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. Ben Meyer/WXPR Public Radio

Rhinelander City Administrator Daniel Guild is the target of a felony investigation involving several agencies, documents obtained Friday show.

The documents, a pair of search warrants, show investigators seized 27 pieces of evidence during a lockdown Thursday of Rhinelander City Hall.

The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office executed the warrants on suspicion that Guild committed two felonies, tampering with public records and misconduct in office.

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Officers from Oneida, Vilas, and Marathon counties, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Justice, closed down City Hall for more than five hours Thursday as they executed their search. The evidentiary items seized include documents, flash drives and cell phones.

Daniel Guild. Photo courtesy of WXPR

In an email Friday to Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson and City Attorney Steve Sorenson, Alder Lee Emmer requested Guild be kept off city property.

“I do not think Daniel Guild should be allowed in City hall and especially on City computers,” Emmer wrote.

Emmer and Alder Dawn Rog requested a discussion of Guild’s status be placed on Monday’s Common Council agenda.

Neither Guild nor any other person has been arrested or criminally charged in the case.

Documents show the investigations into Guild fall into two potential felony categories: tampering with public records and misconduct in office.

On the tampering side, the investigation stems from a Sep. 4 complaint to the sheriff’s office made by Gregg Walker, the owner of the Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News. Walker said the city told his newspaper, in response to an open records request, that personnel records relating to former Public Works Director Tim Kingman were lost. Guild also told the Common Council on Sep. 9 some of Kingman’s records were missing, said Rhinelander Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier.

Kingman was fired by a split vote of the Common Council in June.

Multiple witnesses said Kingman’s records were kept locked in Guild’s office. In his capacity as city administrator, Guild was the legal custodian of the records.

According to state statute, it was Guild’s job to keep them safe and preserve them. Such records must be kept for seven years. Failing to do so is a crime.

The misconduct investigation goes back even farther. On March 4, Investigator Robert Hawn of the Price County Sheriff’s Office was assigned to assist Oneida County. He looked into emails sent to and received from Guild by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Hawn’s investigation concluded with a recommendation of charges for tampering with public records and notices. Hawn found Guild had released an altered email in response to another open records request earlier in the year.

“As part of this release of documents, the City of Rhinelander released a copy of the email chain containing the altered email,” wrote Oneida County Sheriff’s Capt. Terri Hook in the warrant.

In the email to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities (LWM) on Jan. 31, Guild inquired about the process for removing George Kirby from the role of Common Council president. A day before, four council members and Frederickson had drafted a letter to Kirby asking him to step down from the role after he refused to participate in a council meeting.

In Guild’s original email to LWM, Guild used first-person pronouns like “we” and “us” to express the desire for guidance on removing Kirby as council president, although Guild has no formal power to influence council leadership.

But in the altered email that was later released, Guild removed those first-person references.

Hawn’s recommendation of charges was delivered to Forest County District Attorney Chuck Simono, who was asked to act as a special prosecutor in the case. However, on Nov. 8, Oneida County District Attorney Michael Schiek requested Simono transfer the case back to him. Schiek said he had additional information on the case.

Despite this request, Simono drafted a letter Monday, saying he would not charge Guild criminally.

“The slight change in wording does not remotely give rise to any appearance to injure or defraud as the content of both messages are essentially the same,” Simono wrote.

“Please note that the changing of such emails, especially given your public position, is always suspect and opens the door to greater concerns regarding your conduct and the work within your office,” he wrote to Guild.

Despite that conclusion, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday that Simono did, in fact, transfer the case back to Schiek for review. That means Schiek will have the ultimate discretion over whether to charge Guild criminally.

The review of the records seized via Thursday’s search warrants will likely take weeks or months, the sheriff’s office said. An arrest before that is unlikely.

To view the warrant against Guild for tampering with public records, click here. To view the warrant against Guild for misconduct in office, click here.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by WXPR.