Officer’s lawyer tied to candidate

WOODSTOCK – The attorney for a sheriff’s sergeant who accused Undersheriff Andrew Zinke of interfering with a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation has connections to one of Zinke’s opponents in the 2014 election for sheriff.

On behalf of McHenry County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Koziol, Buffalo Grove-based divorce attorney Jonathan Nye filed a request for a special prosecutor to investigate Zinke. Nye previously represented Woodstock attorney James Harrison in a 2001 divorce case, court records show.

Nye and Harrison also attended John Marshall Law School together.

Harrison, who along with retired Des Plaines Cmdr. Bill Prim is running against Zinke, declined to comment on his involvement, if any, in Koziol’s petition filing. He also declined to say whether he has spoken to Koziol, but said he doesn’t think the allegations are politically motivated.

“I think this is something the court has to deal with,” Harrison said. “It’s just not appropriate to talk about this type of thing. I’m not the kind of candidate that’s going to kick the other candidate because of something like this.”

In documents filed Tuesday, Koziol alleges that Zinke tipped off the owner of RITA Corp., which Koziol claims was under investigation by the DEA in the transportation of thousands of pounds of marijuana.

Zinke has said that Koziol is a disgruntled employee who recently was transferred out of a position in the narcotics unit to patrol.

RITA Corp.’s owner, Brian Goode, is a member of the Sheriff’s Department’s Merit Commission and a close friend of Zinke. His company has contributed to the campaigns of Sheriff Keith Nygren, who plans to retire after his current term is up, and more recently, Zinke. RITA also is listed as the address for Zinke’s political campaign committee.

Through a secretary at his law office, Nye declined to comment. His website says he specializes in divorce and family law.

According to their respective websites, Harrison graduated from John Marshall Law School in 1991; Nye graduated from the same school a year later.

Harrison also is a former sheriff’s deputy who worked for the department from 1981 to 1989.

Harrison previously attacked Zinke by filing a complaint against him to a federal investigative agency. Harrison alleged that Zinke must resign to run for office because of a federal law aimed at preventing government employees from using their position to influence partisan elections.

A March letter from the Office of Special Counsel indicates that it was closing the file on the matter, but Harrison said last month that the agency still was investigating based on another complaint he had filed.

The other candidate for sheriff, Bill Prim, said Koziol’s accusations are further evidence that Zinke lacks public confidence.

But anyone can make an allegation, Prim said, and he has no firsthand knowledge of the situation. He said he does not know and has not spoken with Koziol.

A hearing on Koziol’s request for a special prosecutor has been scheduled for today in front of Judge Thomas Meyer.

Koziol stated in his petition that the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office has a conflict because it represents Zinke and other sheriff’s office employees in a federal lawsuit.

However, earlier this year Judge Meyer denied a request by a sheriff’s deputy to have a special prosecutor investigate Nygren on matters unrelated to Koziol’s allegations.

Meyer’s reasoning in that instance was that the attorney-client relationship between McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi and Nygren is not prohibitive, and that the decision on whether to prosecute lies exclusively with the state’s attorney.