McHenry County Sheriff (Republican)
Voting will take place Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Voters will be able to select 1 candidates in this race. The 1 candidates with the most votes will be elected.
Winner in this race will be elected for a term of 4 years.
Click a question below to display the candidates' answers to that question.
Why are you running for county sheriff?
This is a lifelong goal. I was blessed to have been raised in McHenry, and having the benefit of playing, growing up, and going to school in a safe and secure McHenry County. Now that I have three children of my own, I want them to be able to enjoy these same blessings. I am running for Sheriff so that I may utilize the considerable assets of the Sheriff’s Office to ensure that my children, and all of the children and citizens of McHenry County have a safe place to live. In addition, as Sheriff, I will be in a position to continue to work with McHenry County’s religious and civic organizations, as well as other units of local government, school districts and the McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools to improve the quality of life for citizens of McHenry County. I want the job of being Sheriff, not just the title. I am not seeking a second pension or start a second career. I am committed to upholding the constitutions of the State of Illinois and of the United States, enforcing the law fairly, and working with community leaders to provide for a safe and secure McHenry County.
As I said when I first announced my candidacy a year and a half ago, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) desperately needs to break from its recent practices and forge a new identity based firmly upon the principles of accountability; improved community relations; and a new emphasis on tapping volunteer enthusiasm. I am even more convinced now than I was then that these issues are critical. I also said my first task would be to repair and restore the image of the MCSO, which is that of a private club managed for the benefit of its members, not a professional law enforcement agency drawing its legitimacy and authority from the citizens. If anything, that perception has grown over the campaign. Here’s an example. The Sheriff fights in court, using taxpayer dollars and despite a ruling by the Attorney General, to prevent the release of an internal review of the Undersheriff’s role in tipping off a campaign donor of a DEA investigation involving his company. Yet this newspaper seems to have obtained a copy, which it does not share with its readers. It’s all an in-crowd, a charmed circle of friends. I think the public is sick of it.
The sheriff's office in recent years has been beset by acrimony and a strained working relationship with the state's attorney's office. How do you plan to address this?
A professional relationship is necessary to operate effectively. I commend our staff and those in the State’s Attorney’s Office who do their jobs every day without losing focus of the community we serve. It is imperative that checks and balances are in place to insure the public is getting fair and balanced law enforcement as well as prosecution. I do not believe that being indebted to the State’s Attorney is in the best interest of anyone that wants to receive unbiased law enforcement. Ironically, the negative relationship has made us a better Office. We have been tasked to constantly evaluate, train, and improve our overall operations independently. Since 2010, the Sheriff’s Office has replaced many leadership positions. Our relationship with the county administration, department heads, and other elected offices is excellent. I have met and will continue to meet with Mr. Bianchi to insure the Sheriff’s Office is running effectively and that our staff and everyone in law enforcement is being treated fairly. Mr. Bianchi suffered public and professional humiliation after being indicted twice. I had no involvement in that case or failed prosecution. I am confident that after this election we can close that chapter in order to move forward and do what is best for the citizens of McHenry County.
I similarly addressed this issue at the time I announced. I promised to repair the tattered fabric of relationships between the MCSO and other county agencies and their leadership. The Sheriff’s Office needs to work with and alongside other county departments. No good has come out of all this constant intra-county friction, and it has cost the taxpayers a great deal of money. On this issue, I am certainly better positioned than my opponent. I have met frequently with State’s Attorney Bianchi, and he endorses and supports my candidacy, as does State Sen. Dan Duffy, former Congressman Joe Walsh, and numerous others. I doubt the State’s Attorney would be backing a candidate who he did not believe he could work with for the public good. On the other hand, my opponent is firmly entrenched with the current Sheriff’s Administration, and can be counted on to continue its quarrelsome and fractious practices.
What can be done to make the sheriff's office run more efficiently?
Since 2005, the Sheriff’s Office has provided over $100,000,000 dollars in cash flow to the county budget by housing federal detainees. In 2013, our Narcotics Division seized almost $1,000,000 dollars in criminal assets. All county offices have been on a maintenance budget for over 10 years. I believe we need to continue to operate the Sheriff’s Office like an independent business owner. Always watching the bottom line, and operating within our fiscal budget. Our most valued asset is our staff. We continue to evaluate job positions and assignments to combine or eliminate them when possible. I will continue our partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies. They provide funding and training assistance, as well as direct communication and networking that is valuable to keeping McHenry County safe. Acquiring over $200,000 dollars in equipment and vehicles from the Law Enforcement Sharing Office (LESO) for free, allowed us to reduce our budget expenses in 2013. Planning is the key to operating efficiently and effectively. I have numerous plans, such as to adapt 20 of our squad cars to propane fuel. Thereby reducing our fuel budget and negative environmental impact. I plan to further reduce payroll expenses by creating a multi-jurisdictional SWAT and Accident Investigation teams.
Replace the current regime. My opponent likes to take the credit for anything positive in the MCSO, so he must share the blame for the negatives, including extravagant administrative spending. The MCSO budget has increased more than 35% over the past five years, by far the largest amount (in dollars) of any county department. The Sheriff’s Office spent $24,540,322 in fiscal year 2008. By fiscal year 2012, that annual amount had ballooned to $33,188,495, an increase of $8.6 million. Over the same period, the number of full-time employees jumped from 394 to 407. I have stated that I will immediately cut several high-paying and unnecessary administrative positions and will go through the budget and carve out other unnecessary positions, without reducing the number of uniformed officers or affecting safety.
What can the sheriff's office do to be more accessible to residents?
Being accessible to residents and business owners is critical to keeping everyone safe and secure. Last year, we created a citizens police academy and invited volunteers to see and participate in the inner workings of the Sheriff’s Office. We provide tours, and encourage visitors to stop in. We host training events and leadership programs like Leadership Greater McHenry County (LGMC) to provide information and educational ideas. We also attend community events, and social service organizations to offer training and safety information. The Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Algonquin Township and opened a sub-station on Route 14 between Cary and Crystal Lake to be more visible and accessible. We are currently evaluating a second substation in the Marengo area. Since 2010, we re-designed our website www.mchenrysheriff.org where we embrace feedback and social media. We are constantly seeking new ideas and media formats such as Facebook, Twitter and Nixle to insure we have two-way communication with the public. We can always find ways to improve in this area, but nothing is better than one-to-one communication with our staff. Our communication division (911 operators) and deputies are usually our front line of communication. I encourage citizens to feel comfortable engaging with our professional and hardworking staff.
I have made volunteerism one of the keynotes of my campaign. I have always been a believer, and a participant, in volunteer programs, which I consider the glue that holds a community together. I developed and implemented volunteer adjunct programs in Des Plaines, and have actively volunteered myself in organizations like the Boy Scouts. As Sheriff, I will organize volunteer outreach programs that go beyond concepts like Neighborhood Watch to actively bring people of all ages together in ways that build community and encourage greater cooperation between law enforcement and those they serve. Not only will the Sheriff’s Office become more accessible to residents, they will feel they have an active stake in all the things the Sheriff’s Office does.
What is the most-pressing issue the sheriff's office faces?
There is a broad spectrum of issues facing the next Sheriff. It will take strong leadership and an understanding of the entire diverse population that makes McHenry County so great. This constitutional Office encompasses power and responsibilities that cannot be treated lightly. Providing and maintaining services that address quality of life issues is the key. Domestic violence, mental health, internet crime, crimes against children, crimes against the elderly and illegal narcotics are all critical issues, that need to be prioritized. Those who are incarcerated need to receive continued treatment and counseling immediately upon release from the jail. We need to remain strong and constantly evaluate crime statistics, and work with our partners: the DEA, FBI, US Marshals, Illinois State Police, local police agencies and schools. Also, the many other community service organizations and counseling centers whom provide care and treatment.
Community credibility. From battles with other officeholders, to relentless crusades against employees who push back against clumsy and heavy-handed discipline, to Sergeants convicted of charges related to child predatory sexual acts, the Sheriff’s Office has developed a severe image problem in the community. Simply selecting a different person who is still tied to the same policies will not solve the problem. To address one aspect of this crisis, I will create an office of Internal Affairs that will be professional, impartial and create confidence among the public and the rank and file officers both. Internal Affairs is a critical function for all law enforcement organizations, and must be carried out with awareness of criminal law, collective bargaining rights, employee civil rights and a myriad of other considerations. It’s time the MCSO had such an organization.
How would you differentiate yourself from your opponent?
Experience, Education, Leadership and Respect. I started my career in law enforcement at 18 years old, and after working in smaller municipal police departments, was hired by the Sheriff’s Office. During my 25 year career in the Sheriff’s Office, I have worked as a patrol deputy, K9 handler, detective, sergeant, lieutenant in charge of detectives, and now for the last 3 years Undersheriff. I spent this time learning, advancing and working with the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office and local police agencies. I will not need to learn about the County or about the Sheriff’s Office. I have lived it, all of my adult life. I am committed to maintaining the highest professional standards. Our Office was recently awarded the “Triple Crown” Award from the National Sheriff’s Association. We are the only Sheriff’s Office in Illinois to obtain this prestigious award in 2013, and only one of 35 in the entire nation. However, I do not believe that my past service is the only reason that I would make a better Sheriff than my opponent. To see the unedited (length) version of this document and learn more please visit my website www.zinkeforsheriff.org
Rather than increasing the number of employees and increasing the expenditures, as my opponent continues to advocate, all the time calls for service and jail population shrink, my goal is to enhance our services through creating a community volunteer program, shrinking our bloated administration and decreasing the runaway expenditures. Most importantly, I’m an outsider not beholding to any of the deals or arrangements initiated by previous administrations.