“You don’t disagree with Steinbrink, Jr. If you do, you’re going to be out of a job” said one of the employee whistle-blowers in the Pleasant Prairie corruption investigation to an investigator with the Racine County Sheriff’s Office.
The disgraced former Village of Pleasant Prairie public works director was charged today with seven felonies related to corruption, enough to put him behind bars for decades. In the six-page criminal complaint filed today, Steinbrink, Jr was formally charged with one count of Theft – False Representation between $10,000 and $100,000 and six counts of felony Misconduct in Public Office – Excess Authority. The former carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, and the latter, 3.5 years each.
On April 4, 2022, Captain Ollila of the Pleasant Prairie Police Department was approached by a former public works employee who blew the whistle on Steinbrink, Jr for years of alleged misconduct. Police Chief Dave Smetana became aware and decided with the Captain and Village Administration to forward the investigation to the Racine County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) due to a conflict of interest. RCSO then conducted a multi-month investigation. Thiel was soon-thereafter fired.
According to the criminal complaint it is alleged:
Dump Truck Purchased by Steinbrink, Jr Repaired With Village Funds
Steinbrink, Jr purchased a Village Dump Truck, a 2000 Ford Sterling L8500, for $14,500. He then ordered Village staff to repair it, spending thousands on new tires and brakes. The repairs were logged in the Department of Public Works electronic records system.
Steinbrink, Jr asked his father and other Village officials to purchase a brand new wood chipper, saying the two they had were old and broke down often. One was built in 1993 and the other, in 2005. The board, including his father, ostensibly approved the budget item and the Village got a brand new chipper. Steinbrink, Jr worked out a deal with JJ Kane Auctions where he would buy the 2005 chipper for $2,000. He ordered village staff to repair it, with new blades, chains, and other components. His live-in girlfriend, Andra Jacobsen, bought the chipper with a credit card on 2/4/2022. It is unknown if Jacobsen will be charged. Steinbrink, Jr owns a tree-trimming business. Steinbrink, Jr told police “I’ll tell you what, bad call on my part there…”
Bain Station Road Paving Project
In 2020, there was a road improvement project at the corner of Bain Station Road and 85th St. The cost was estimated to be $206,348.62 but only cost $115,888. Steinbrink, Jr ordered the leftover to be placed in the Village’s coffers instead of being refunded back to the developer who put the money up, depriving them of approximately $90,300. Also, there was a gate and culverts installed on his family property that were owned by the Village. His father, the Village President John Steinbrink, Sr benefited from this as well.
Concrete Work at Steinbrink, Jr’s Residence
Steinbrink, Jr ordered staff to hide their trucks behind his pole barn and help pour concrete in his backyard for his in-the-ground pool while on duty being paid by the Village.
Steinbrink, Jr didn’t complete compost temperature checks for the Wisconsin DNR for two years. A DNR employee was coming the next day, so Steinbrink, Jr ordered staff to forge signatures.
Illegal Abandonment Of Laddish Well
Steinbrink, Jr ordered staff to abandon a well illegally, saying “no matter what, get it done.” This was contrary to regulation.
“Employees were asked about what it was like to work for Steinbrink Jr. SS stated that Steinbrink Jr had never been angry towards him; however, he described Steinbrink Jr generally as an angry, narcissistic and manipulating person. SS explained that when he started to work at DPW he was told to do his job, ‘keep his nose down’ and do what he is told to do even if it is the wrong thing. Inv Sharrett (RCSO) learned that employees feared losing their jobs if they did not do as Steinbrink Jr instructed. Another employee, MT stated that employees worked in fear while Steinbrink Jr was in charge of DPW and described work environment as being happier since Steinbrink Jr had left the department.”
Steinbrink, Jr hired Richard J. Smith of Milwaukee, a criminal defense attorney of 41 years to defend him. Steinbrink, Jr is due in court on August 10, 2022 at 1pm for an initial appearance. Racine County DA Patricia Hanson didn’t ask for a warrant, but instead issued a summons to Steinbrink, an uncommon procedure for a case as serious as this.
It is very difficult if not impossible to believe that Junior’s father, the long-time Village president, did not have knowledge of all of these serious allegations. We contacted him to ask him this very thing but he declined to comment.