Undersheriff Andy Zinke was taken off the ethics hook for a second time before the McHenry County Ethics Commission Thursday afternoon.
Former Sheriff’s Deputy Zane Seipler filed the complaint along with evidence of Zinke having had his photo taken in the Harvard Police Department with Harvard policemen as a backdrop. The clock on the wall read slightly after three.
The second piece of evidence submitted was a dvd of the Chicago ABC news story on the Sheriff’s race.
Zinke’s part of the story is shot in the Sheriff’s Office.
Zinke is seen in his office.
Campaign literature is seen on a desk or table.
Zinke is seen interrupting two employees for the benefit of the camera.
Next the story touched upon the “feud” between McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren and State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi.
Turning to campaign opponent Bill Prim, ABC interviews him in his home.
Having set the stage, let me state the telling question asked by Ethics Commission Chairman Thomas Spencer:
“Does the involvement in that video amount to campaigning for him?”
That was the key question to Spencer concerning whether the complaint should be sent to the McHenry County State’s Attorney “for further review.”
Right before the vote, Ethics Commission member Scott Hartman said,
“I struggle with the presence of the campaign literature and whether its presence represents prohibited political activity.”
Chairman Spencer then moved that the complain be considered “sufficient.”
Hartman seconded the motion.
Chairman Spencer explained that “a yes vote is a finding that the complaint is sufficient.” He further explained that the motion requited three affirmative votes.
(Two commission members–Cherie Ricket and John White failed to attend the meeting.)
Melissa Hernandez and Hartmen voted “Yes.”
Chairman Spencer voted “No.”
So, the motion failed.
The complaint was brought by former Deputy Sheriff Zane Seipler.
Introductory remarks, he noted the “staunch political allies of Mr. Zinke in the audience” and hoped that they would not exert undue influence on Commission members.
Among those in the audience were Sheriff Keith Nygren and County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill.
“The political climate of McHenry County is changing,” Seipler said. “They may be influential, but I expect the Commission to do the right thing.”
Attorney Rebecca Lee represented Zinke.
She pointed out that Zinke “routinely conducts comments with the media..during compensated time, [but] he was not on the clock for this interview, so the “County wasn’t deprived of anything.”
Concerning the Harvard photo, she said that the complaint “doesn’t allege compensation at the time.”
She asked the Commission to “consider [the complaint's] source and to deny it as “meritless.”
McHenry County Board Chairwoman was seating in the front row of the audience and, after some discussion of the attempt to find a replacement for Herandez and the fact that one applicant already serves in another appointive position, Hill concluded that the County Board “probably should re-open the application process.”
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On the trip back to Crystal Lake I reflected on the conclusion by Chairman Thomas Spencer, an attorney-at-law allowed to practice for five and a half years, that Andy Zinke’s appearance in a TV news story on the Sheriff’s race in McHenry County could not be construed to be “campaigning.”
What a stunning disconnect from reality!
Didn’t he see what was written under the name of Andrew Zinke?
“(R) CANDIDATE MCHENRY COUNTY SHERIFF”
“Candidates” are involved in campaigning.
Either Spencer is hopelessly naive or something else was going on.