UPDATE: Rhinelander Administrator Guild In Jail After Felony Arrest
Rhinelander City Administrator Daniel Guild is in Oneida County Jail after his arrest Monday morning by Oneida County Sheriff’s deputies.
The arrest was made on suspicion of Misconduct in Public Office, a felony.
Deputies arrested Guild during a traffic stop on Highway 8 west of Rhinelander, according to Oneida County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dan Hess. The traffic stop was made with the express purpose of making the arrest.
Guild will make his first appearance in Oneida County Court on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. Hess said no other members of city government are under investigation in connection with the case.
At its regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night, the Rhinelander Common Council voted to set a special meeting Friday night to discuss Guild's future.
In a press release late Monday afternoon, Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson said he knows nothing other than Guild has been arrested and pledged to cooperate with investigators.
Guild’s arrest came after more than a year of investigation. Part of that investigation included a lockdown of Rhinelander City Hall on Nov. 21, in which investigators seized 27 pieces of evidence. The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office executed two warrants during the lockdown on suspicion that Guild committed two felonies, Tampering with Public Records and Misconduct in Office.
That search lasted more than five hours, and included officers from Oneida, Vilas, and Marathon counites, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The evidentiary items seized included documents, flash drives, and cell phones.
Suspicion of the criminal charge leading to Monday’s arrest, Misconduct in Office, dates back more than a year. On March 4, 2019, 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 that Guild had released an altered email in response to an 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 Captain Terri Hook in November’s warrant return.
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 Mayor Chris 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.
Investigator 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 on Nov. 18, 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 Nov. 22 that Simono did, in fact, transfer the case back to Schiek for review. That means Schiek had the ultimate discretion over whether to charge Guild criminally.
The lockdown and search at City Hall on Nov. 21 also included a warrant to investigate a potential Tampering with Public Records felony, a crime not named as part of Monday’s arrest.
The tampering investigation stemmed from a Sep. 4 complaint to the Oneida County 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, according to 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.