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updated: 10/25/2012 8:28 PM

McHenry undersheriff denies misconduct accusation

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A judge could hear arguments next week about whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate a misconduct claim made by a McHenry County sheriff's department sergeant against Undersheriff Andrew Zinke.

The complaint made by John Koziol accuses Zinke of tipping off a business owner over the summer that the Drug Enforcement Administration was investigating a case in which 60,000 pounds of marijuana was being shipped to his Crystal Lake business.

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Zinke, who is one of three people seeking the Republican nomination for sheriff in 2014, called Koziol's allegations the product of a "disgruntled employee."

"The complaint against me is not only erroneous and without merit, it also puts DEA officers in jeopardy during their ongoing investigation of narcotic trafficking," Zinke said in a prepared statement earlier this week. "Our office has fully cooperated with the DEA's office for several years and will continue to do so."

On Thursday, Zinke said he could not answer any additional inquiries. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Koziol's attorney, who is pushing for the special prosector, and representatives of the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office made a brief appearance Thursday before Judge Thomas Meyer in Woodstock.

The matter was continued to Nov. 2, when Meyer could hear arguments in the case.

In a petition for a special prosecutor filed this week, attorney Jonathan Nye argued that Zinke, who is second in command of the sheriff's department, had violated several sections of the department's code of conduct and that a special prosecutor is needed.

The complaint, accompanied by an affidavit signed by Koziol, accused Zinke in July 2012 of tipping off the owner of RITA Corporation in Crystal Lake that DEA agents were investigating a case in which they suspected as much as 60,000 pounds of marijuana were being shipped via truck from Texas to the business.

In court documents, Koziol states he was working as part of a DEA task force investigating a truck that was carrying two tons of marijuana destined for the RITA Corporation, which is owned by Brian Goode, who also serves as a McHenry County Sheriff's Merit Commissioner.

Court documents state the Koziol told his supervisor and Zinke about the investigation, and Zinke said "There's no way Brian (Goode) is involved." Zinke said he had an upcoming lunch meeting with Goode but indicated "I'm not going to say anything to him, though," according to the complaint.

Koziol was later told by the DEA that the investigation was larger than first thought and as much as 60,000 pounds were shipped to the business at 850 S. Route 31 -- the same address as Zinke's campaign headquarters, according to court documents.

The next day, July 13, Koziol said he saw Zinke and Goode in the parking lot of the McHenry County court building and Zinke approached Koziol, introduced Goode and said "I told Brian everything."

"(Koziol) was stunned by Zinke's admission that Zinke had disclosed confidential information concerning a DEA investigation," according to court documents. "(Koziol) believed that the investigation had been compromised."

Goode, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, did not return a phone message Thursday.

Nye's request for a special prosecutor also notes that RITA Corporation donated $50,000 to Zinke's campaign after that date and also had contributed more than $50,000 from 1999 to 2011 to the campaigns for McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren, who will retire after his term is up in fall 2014.

"In light of the sheriff's political and financial connection to Brian Goode, and in light of the State's Attorney's conflict of interest, an independent investigation of the allegation of criminal wrongdoing against Undersheriff Zinke is necessary and essential to insure the integrity of the McHenry County Sheriff Office," Nye wrote in his motion.

Nye, who did not return a phone message seeking comment, also argued that the McHenry County State's Attorney is defending Zinke in civil lawsuits so it would be improper to have the office investigate Zinke.

This was essentially the same argument McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi used when a sheriff's deputy wanted a special prosecutor to investigate Nygren. Bianchi told a judge that his office was defending Nygren in lawsuits, and it was unethical to investigate him at the same time.

Bianchi did not return a message Thursday.

Bill Prim, a retired police commander, and Jim Harrison, an attorney, have declared they also will be seeking the Republican nomination for McHenry County Sheriff in the March 2014 primary.

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