On April 14th, 2022 the Kenosha County Eye initiated a public records request with the village of Pleasant Prairie in relation to the corruption investigation being conducted by the Racine County Sheriff’s Department.
The investigation is centered on John Steinbrink Jr, the Village’s Director of Public Works and son to President, John Steinbrink Sr. According to a Village document, Steinbrink Jr earns $120k annually. It is unknown who else, if anyone is also the target of this investigation.
On April 29th, 2022 we received a response to our request. Some information we have to wait for as Wisconsin statute gives John Steinbrink, Jr a chance to seek Court action to stop the release certain records.
Much of what we requested was denied and the village cited a statute that, in certain circumstances, allows the government to deny requests if it is related to an ongoing and current investigation. However, based on the exact documents and other records that we requested, the denials tell us more than you would think.
For example, we asked the village for documents pertaining to Village assets purchased by Steinbrink Jr in the last 2 years. We asked for a copy of the video showing Steinbrink, Jr driving away from Village Hall with an expensive wood chipper. We also asked for documents relating to John Steinbrink Jr’s use of Village assets for his private tree trimming business. We also asked explicitly for the invoice for Steinbrink, Jr’s purchasing of an expensive wood chipper. For all the requests in this paragraph, The Village denied our request citing “an ongoing and current investigation.” If these documents did not exist, they would simply respond with “I am a custodian and have not located any records which appear to be responsive to this request.” This is exactly how the village responded when we asked them for a video of Steinbrink Jr being walked out of the building when placed on leave. We got the same response asking for disciplinary documents within his personnel file – meaning in his more than 20-year career, he has never been disciplined by his father, The Village President, or any Village Administrator.
This is what we learned with the four-page response:
Steinbrink Jr is being investigated for allegedly improperly purchasing Village assets.
Steinbrink Jr is being investigated allegedly in relation to an expensive wood chipper.
Steinbrink Jr is being investigated for allegedly using Village assets for his private tree trimming business.
The village of Pleasant Prairie is allegedly in possession of a video that shows Steinbrink Jr driving away from the village hall with said wood chipper.
KCE sources are reliable and appreciated. We will always honor your request to remain anonymous and state law protects us from ever having to release your identity to anyone.
Here is what we will have after the statutory period has passed and Steinbrink, Jr does not seek Court intervention:
The village-wide email sent out to all employees in regards to Steinbrink Jr’s being placed on administrative leave.
The letter addressed to Steinbrink Jr that notifies him of his being placed on leave.
The criminal investigation is ongoing with the Racine County Sheriff’s department. The last instance known to KCE that the Racine County Sheriff’s Department investigated a government agency for corruption, was the Kenosha I.T. scandal which lasted about four years.
Let’s hope that this investigation does not last as long. Earning $120,000 while being investigated for serious misconduct is not something the Pleasant Prairie taxpayers are likely to be happy about. If this investigation lasts for four years, Junior will rake in almost half a million dollars while kicking his feet up. We reached out to the Racine County Sheriff and will update story when and if he responds.