Spring elections are five months away, but some politicians are already giving away their endorsements. This spring, there will be three open seats on the Milwaukee County Board, which means no incumbents to run against. Supervisor Dimitrijevic, who has her eye on Chairmanship of the County Board, is actively involved in helping candidates run for office.
According to a press release issued by candidate Penny Sikora, Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic has publicly endorsed him for the 18th district seat. Endorsements are common during election time, but what caught our attention was the extensive criminal history of the candidate she endorsed. Below is a 10 year snapshot of Penny Sikora's criminal offenses.
On December 10th, 1999 – found guilty of stealing merchandise from Office Depot. Sikora was sentenced to thirty days of community service and ordered to pay restitution of $459.96 to Office Depot instead of receiving six months of probation.
On March 21st, 2000 – eviction with a small claims judgment for $94.98.
On March 5th , 2002 – criminal disorderly conduct.
On April 24, 2002 -small claims judgment for $947.14.
On June 9th, 2003 – misdemeanor criminal battery against wife, then Victoria Amos Sikora.
On June 9th, 2003 – restraining order for a domestic abuse situation with his wife.
On February 25th, 2005 – misdemeanor criminal battery, which was later dismissed through a "deferred prosecution."
On June 28th, 2005 – unemployment compensation fraud judgment for $227.00 by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
On May 11th, 2009 – restraining order for domestic abuse by ex-wife Victoria Evans who divorced him three years prior.
In an email exchange with Supervisor Dimitrijevic, El Conquistador asked her three questions.
1. Should voters be concerned about Sikora's unemployment fraud and theft from a previous employer?
2. Should women voters be concerned that Sikora has a history of spousal battery and an ongoing restraining order?
3. Do you believe that Sikora has the moral compass to be a virtuous leader?
Explain she did not. Dimitrijevic criticized El Conquistador for not covering the positive things she has done on the County Board like her Greenprint Sustainability Program, preserving the paramedic program, or the 125 town hall meetings she has hosted. (As an aside, she didn't preserve the county paramedic program.)
We asked her a second time for a quote, and this is what she provided us:
"This is just another attempt to print a negative article about Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, a leader on the County Board with a great vision. She has done a great job during this recent budget process fighting to preserve important county services such as paratransit, paramedics, and deputy sheriffs."
We did not get answers, but we obtained a previous email exchange she had with a constituent where she was willing to defend Sikora's record. Below is Dimitrijevic's response to the constituent.
I recently read your email regarding Penny Sikora. I am one of the prominent Milwaukee Democrats supporting him that you referenced. I will continue to support him.
Do you live in District 18? Are you affiliated with another campaign against him? He may have had some hard times, but we all have. The fact that he has improved his life and has dedicated his career to public service is more important than past mistakes he may have made.
I am inviting you to speak on this matter as soon as possible rather than hide behind these attacks. In the meantime, we will be continuing our positive campaign with the voters of the 18th district, focused on improving the future. If you do not reply and wish to discuss the matter you sent to my personal email inbox, I will assume this is merely a faceless, cowardly attack.
Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic
Other Supervisors have noted that Marina Dimitrijevic talks a big game about female equality and women's rights. Yet, she appears to have no problem brushing off similar concerns from a female constituent. Yes, Sikora may be turning his life around, but would Dimitrijevic be willing to cut a Republican this much slack if he had a similar criminal past?
To our knowledge, there are three candidates running for the 18th district County Supervisor seat: Penny Sikora, Deanna Alexander, and Tracey Corder. Neither Corder or Sikora returned our messages, but we were able reach Deanna Alexander. Alexander, who is a mother, homeowner, and county employee, expressed surprise over Dimitrijevic's endorsement.
"I am surprised that she has declared an endorsement so early in the campaign season, without a full evaluation of all candidates," Alexander said in an email statement to El Conquistador. Alexander said that she never had a chance to sit down with Marina to talk about policy concerns or her candidacy. She reached out to Supervisor Dimitrijevic, but received no formal reply.
Dimitrijevic's endorsement is even more surprising when Alexander's credentials are considered. Alexander has private sector experience in accounting, a Masters Degree in Public Administration, is a veteran of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. She says she is not a single issue candidate, is versed in public policy, and plans to use her experience and education to help constituents live healthier and freer lives.
When asked how Alexander felt about Dimitrijevic's endorsement of a candidate with such a checkered past, she said, "I would assume that Supervisor Dimitrijevic felt justified in making any endorsements that she has issued and I would urge you to ask her more about this endorsement. Perhaps she was not familiar with that portion of Mr. Sikora’s past. I only regret that it seems she choose to act on an endorsement before taking the opportunity to fully evaluate all of the candidates."
But the email exchange shows that Dimitrijevic knew about Sikora's past and was willing to defend his candidacy nonetheless. Surely, Alexander's experience and education deserve Dimitrijevic's consideration; and Alexander's willingness to give both Sikora and Dimitrijevic the benefit of the doubt says much about her character as a candidate.
Constituents have the right to question politicians about their endorsements. And as a matter of public trust, newspapers are obligated to inform the public when a candidate has a history of domestic violence, theft, fraud, and other disorderly disturbances. Of course, this doesn't mean that public office is only meant for saints. Making mistakes is a part of being human, yet the situation with Mr. Sikora is not about the temerity of one's youth. It's about a pattern of reckless behavior as an adult for more than 10 years. Sure, people can change, but public office isn't meant to be a rehabilitation center.
We do not know why Supervisor Dimitrijevic is backing Penny Sikora, but we do ask that she explain her endorsement. Does she believe that Mr. Sikora, with all his mistakes, is the best person for the job? Or is Dimitrijevic just laying the groundwork to become the next County Board Chairman? Either way, Dimitrijevic owes the public an explanation for her endorsement.