BROOKINGS – The City of Brookings’ public works director has been indicted on a Minnehaha County charge of grand theft by embezzlement.
A Minnehaha County grand jury returned an indictment against Duane Buthe, 40, on Thursday, Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson reported in a press release.
“Beginning in May of this year, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation began an investigation into Mr. Buthe’s involvement with the South Dakota Association of County Highway Superintendents (SDACHS). Between the years of 2013 through 2020, Mr. Buthe worked as the Minnehaha County highway superintendent while also serving as secretary of SDACHS,” the press release says.
“The indictment alleges that Mr. Buthe misappropriated over $100,000 of SDACHS funds during his tenure as secretary. The allegations compile numerous retail transactions, cash withdrawals, and other misappropriations using the SDACHS account. It’s alleged that the purpose of the misappropriations was to personally benefit Mr. Buthe,” the press release says.
Buthe started as the City of Brookings’ first public works director on March 1. When asked about Buthe’s employment status with the city, City Manager Paul Briseno said the city does not comment on personnel matters.
Nelson said the alleged Minnehaha County embezzlement involved taxpayer funds.
“The SDACHS is funded mostly by the hardworking taxpayers of South Dakota. Counties across South Dakota pay thousands of dollars to support the training and education of their highway superintendents. If you’ve paid county taxes in South Dakota during this period, you’ve been impacted by this crime,” Nelson said.
Buthe is presumed innocent of the charges, the press release says.
The case is being prosecuted by Nelson, who is serving as a special deputy state’s attorney for Minnehaha County because Buthe was a Minnehaha County employee during the time period listed in the indictment. Nelson said the indictment does not allege any wrongdoing in Brookings County.
Grand theft by embezzlement is a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.