Republican David Zoerner and Democrat James Simmons will both be on the ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election for Kenosha County Sheriff. Zoerner is a Sergeant for the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department and has been on the department for more than 23 years. For four years before that, Zoerner was a Military Police Officer in the Marine Corps. Simmons is a Deputy on the Lake County, Illinois Sheriff’s department, but KCE doesn’t know for how long.
KCE believes that knowledge is power and voters should have as much information as possible to make an informed decision come time to vote. In this first segment, we will be diving into the two candidates’ disciplinary files to see if there is any serious misconduct, excessive force, or any other items of note.
KCE made a public records request for the disciplinary files for Deputy Simmons and Sgt. Zoerner. The Lake County Sheriff’s department responded to KCE that there was no active discipline in the personnel file of Deputy Simmons. We emailed and texted Deputy Simmons to ask if he would share his expired disciplinary file with us. He didn’t respond to KCE. What we do know, and it is public knowledge, is that Deputy Simmons was at one time promoted to the Detective Bureau at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office but was demoted at some point to the rank of Deputy, the rank he holds today. We also requested Sgt. Zoerner’s personnel file. According to the Kenosha County Corporation Counsel, Sgt. Zoerner’s file is currently not releasable to the public because of an active Kenosha Circuit Court case. We asked Zoerner about this and he told us that before KCE’s request, he received an anonymous request for items within his personnel file from another source. Since the request was anonymous, Zoerner used his statutory right to block access to the anonymous requester until he can learn more about the group looking for this information. Even though we were only interested in active discipline within his file, Zoerner provided KCE with his entire personnel file on the condition that we didn’t release any personal identifying information, like his social security number, or address. From the oath that he took in 1999, until present day, we have it all. At this time, we are only interested in discipline. The most recent disciplinary item in Zoerner’s file was from June of 2019, and it expired in December of 2019. We gave Zoerner the opportunity to explain any or all of the items. He did. Let’s take a look:
Zoerner did not do a license check for a wedding venue. He received a verbal warning that expired on 12/20/2019.
Zoerner’s response: “I forgot to assign a Deputy for this task. I later completed the task on my own.”
Zoerner did not keep his squad radio at the proper volume. He received a written warning that expired on 8/26/2007.
Zoerner’s response: “The older squad radios switch was easily knocked around by our duty belts and must have moved the volume knob.”
Zorner missed a monthly training session. He received a verbal warning that expired on 12/20/06.
Zoerner’s response: “I forgot about this training session. I was working third shift and the training was outside of my normal working hours. This was the first training session I missed and the last.”
Zoerner was found sleeping on duty. He was giving a written warning that expired on 9/14/06.
Zoerner’s response: “I was writing a report while in my squad car during third shift. I had all the lights on. I nodded off. I was struggling with sleep while working third shift and this prompted me to see my family doctor who recommended a sleep study. The result of the sleep study showed that I had severe sleep apnea. I began therapy and still receive therapy to this day and I no longer have any issues with being overly tired at work.
Zoerner spilled coffee in his squad car and damaged a switch.
Zoerner’s response: “I spilled coffee on the siren control switch. It was embarrassing because it caused the siren to randomly go off throughout the evening. It made the drive across the county interesting. Zoerner received a verbal warning which expired on 10/10/2005.
Zoerner damaged a department pager. Zoerner received a verbal warning that expired on 10/28/2002
Zoerner’s response: “I dropped my work-issued pager while off duty and accidentally ran it over with my snowblower.
In is unfortunate that Deputy Simmons will not disclose the reason for his demotion or his disciplinary records. Zoerner has never been suspended and was promoted in 2011, after 5 of his 6 letters of discipline.
**This is the first segment in a series that will discuss the race for Kenosha County Sheriff.**