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McCaleb: Presidential race has nothing on McHenry sheriff campaign

We’re just nine days away from the General Election, one in which we’ll elect the next president of the United States and every single member of Congress, the Illinois General Assembly and the McHenry County Board.

Yet last week, much of the discussion was about a political race that’s more than a year-and-a-half away.

McHenry County sheriff’s Sgt. John Koziol saw to that when he filed an affidavit in Illinois’ 22nd Circuit Court seeking a special prosecutor to investigate Undersheriff Andy Zinke, who has announced he will run for sheriff in 2014, when his boss, Keith Nygren, retires.

As if our recent history with special prosecutors weren’t enough to create some buzz, the allegations contained in the filing sure were.

Koziol accused his superior of interfering with a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into the transportation of thousands of pounds of marijuana. Specifically, Koziol, who was working in partnership with the DEA, claims that Zinke improperly tipped off his good friend and campaign manager, Crystal Lake-based RITA Corp. owner Brian Goode, to the investigation.

The court filing says that a truck intercepted by DEA agents and heading to RITA was carrying 4,000 pounds of marijuana. In a statement released Friday, Goode said “... the truck in question belonged to a common carrier who was transporting a load of cosmetic raw materials purchased by RITA Corporation from a supplier in Mexico. The truck did not belong to RITA Corporation and the driver was not an employee of RITA Corporation.”

In other words, RITA had nothing to do with the shipment of illegal drugs, it just got swept into an unfortunate set of circumstances.

No one is denying that Zinke met with Goode at some point after the undersheriff learned about the investigation. Zinke even brought Goode to Koziol. What’s not clear is whether the DEA gave Zinke the OK to meet with Goode, or whether the DEA thinks Zinke interfered with the probe.

If the DEA does think Zinke improperly interfered, my guess is it will undertake its own investigation or ask the FBI to investigate, not count on a special prosecutor to be appointed locally – especially with the success rate of special prosecutors around here.

Knowing that federal authorities wouldn’t allow such an alleged impropriety go unchecked, what other motive would Koziol have to file the special prosecutor request?

After learning more about the players and circumstances involved in the filing, I have little doubt that it was political in nature and the main purpose was to embarrass Zinke and his campaign contributor. Zinke has said Koziol is a disgruntled employee who is trying to get payback for being transferred from narcotics to patrol. And the attorney who Koziol hired to file the request for a special prosecutor has close ties to one of Zinke’s two Republican challengers for sheriff, James Harrison.

That doesn’t mean that the allegations contained in the filing are false. I don’t know one way or the other on that. The allegations should be investigated, but by the aggrieved party, the federal government. Nygren also needs to conduct an internal investigation to determine whether any department policies were violated.

Bottom line? It’s a long way to the spring 2014 primary. The way this race has started, it might make Obama vs. Romney seem tame by comparison.

• • •

Big oops: Bob Anderson of Wonder Lake called me Wednesday morning to let me know about a “big mistake” on that day’s Opinion page. The Editorial Board had weighed in on a couple of referendums that will be on McHenry County ballots Nov. 6. One is an advisory referendum asking voters whether citizens should be able to hold more than one elected office at a time.

The Editorial Board, of which I am a member, discussed how state law should not allow citizens to hold more than one office. It can limit the amount of time an officeholder spends performing the duties of each office, and it also allows an individual to double-dip on public salaries, pensions and other benefits.

The Editorial Board recommended a “yes” vote, meaning yes, the state should not allow a citizen to hold more than one elected office. But the question is not phrased that way. The question asks whether citizens should be able to hold more than one office. Our intention was to recommend a “no” vote. We apologize for any confusion.

We’ll be publishing a roundup of the Editorial Board’s endorsements a week from today on the Opinion page.

In the meantime, visit NWHerald.com/election for questionnaire responses and videos of candidates in contested races answering our questions.

• • • 

Deadline passed: We no longer are accepting election-related letters to the editor. The deadline for submitting them was Friday.

We need to impose a deadline because we receive so many of them. If we accepted the letters up until just a few days before the election, we wouldn’t be able to publish them all.

Of course, we still are accepting letters on most any other topic, so fire away.

• • • 

Trick or treat: Don’t forget that Halloween is Wednesday. That means there will be a lot of children going door-to-door and crossing streets in the dark.

Please be careful on your way home from work.

For a list of trick-or-treat hours, see page B6 of Sunday's Local & Region section.

• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com.

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