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Lyons: Where there’s smoke, expect more smoke

Are you still reeling from claims that Undersheriff Andrew Zinke compromised a DEA investigation involving trucks hauling tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana with alleged destinations of the Crystal Lake manufacturing company that also is Zinke’s campaign headquarters?

Slow down. This is McHenry County. Three guys are running for sheriff in 2014. Predictions that everything is exactly as it seems are less reliable than groundhog predictions in February.

There’s no question this looks bad for Zinke, but there’s more to consider.

What we know from court documents so far is that longtime narcotics division Sgt. John Koziol says Zinke told RITA Corp. owner Brian Goode about a DEA investigation into trucks hauling huge loads of marijuana that the DEA thinks were headed for Goode’s business. Zinke describes Koziol as a disgruntled employee.

Maybe so, but Koziol also is a respected cop whom the department trusted for a long time in a sensitive position. At some point, Zinke decided to make major changes within the department, including moving Koziol and several others out of their longtime jobs and putting them back on the street.

The chicken or the egg part is one I can’t answer yet, but the fact is that many of those officers who’ve been moved are Zinke’s political enemies. It’s fair to ask the question of whether Zinke made the moves out of political retribution for their lack of allegiance.

If politics teach us anything, it’s that there are rarely clear-cut good guys and bad guys. There are these guys and those guys, the guys on the sidelines and the guys behind the guys, and each one of them is playing an angle. Politics are not for the genteel, and the simpleminded will walk away even dumber.

So line up with your camp and put on your white hat if that helps. In the meantime, I’ll continue to occupy the three-dimensional world of politics where altruism and nobility are as frequent as unicorns and leprechauns.

So we’ve reported what people have said, which is different than what we know. Some of the parties involved aren’t talking, which is not that surprising but leaves many holes to fill. There should be enough time to do that between now and the spring 2014 primary.

The million-dollar question is whether Zinke interfered with a DEA investigation by allegedly tipping off his friend. It’s a nuanced question we don’t know the whole answer to yet. We can’t presume to know what the business owner knew about trucks intercepted in Texas that claimed to be headed for RITA Corp. or what the DEA knew about the owner’s knowledge.

But here’s another big question: If Zinke really blew the cover off a DEA investigation involving the movement of tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana, don’t you think the DEA or the FBI would be going after him?

At the moment, the only people who we know are going after him for this alleged transgression are Koziol and some Buffalo Grove divorce lawyer who represented Zinke’s primary opponent, Jim Harrison, in his divorce.

Really? A family law attorney? Either someone tore out the rest of Koziol’s Yellow Pages or Harrison is the architect behind the motion for a special prosecutor. If he isn’t, then let’s hear a denial instead of a “no comment.”

None of that makes anyone right or wrong; it just shows you how difficult it is to get to the truth when politics are involved. Don’t expect to hear it all at once.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at

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