MADISON – State Rep. Shannon Zimmerman’s, R-River Falls, failure to report an $800,000 Florida vacation property resulted in the Wisconsin Ethics Commission recently having him amend reports for three years.
Zimmerman hadn’t included an ownership interest in a Fort Myers, Fla. property after the company, Southern Latitude Retreat LLC, was incorporated in 2018.
State law requires government officials to annually report business and real estate holdings on a Statement of Economic Interest.
St. Croix County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Myers filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission in January alleging that Zimmerman had filed the ownership information with the Florida Secretary of State in 2019 and 2020. However, Zimmerman hadn’t reported the same information on the SEIs he had filed with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.
By the commission’s meeting on May 11, Zimmerman had amended his SEIs forms for 2019-21 and said they will look at making the form clearer to follow.
“(T)he Ethics Commission voted to exercise its prosecutorial discretion; request Representative Zimmerman amend his 2019, 2020, and 2021 SEIs to include Southern Latitude Retreat, LLC and any partners, officers, or directors; and as the SEI instructions could be clearer on this point, take no further action on the complaint provided the amendments were made as requested.
“Representative Zimmerman has now amended his SEIs as requested, and the complaint has been dismissed,” David Burger, Commission staff counsel, wrote Myers on June 16.
On Thursday, Zimmerman said he had previously reported the property on his SEIs but not the LLC.
“It was a jointly held property with my brother… I sold (my interest in it) and have since acquired a new one,” Zimmerman said.
He also said that he “never received $1 of rental income” from the property in question. Asked about messages on the vacation property’s Facebook page from supposed customers, Zimmerman said he didn’t operate that page and he thought those messages may have been an attempt by his brother to generate business for the property.
“My brother … stays down there the entire winter. Only my brother and (other relatives) stay there, so, it’s not generating income” for me, he said.
Zimmerman said he reported the property to the commission which didn’t sanction him for not reporting the LLC, too.
“If I had done something wrong, the Ethics Commission would have done something about it,” he said.
The new Florida property won’t be operated as a business venture, he said.
He called the complaint “just the Democrats of St. Croix County running a claim that was investigated and found that nothing was there. … They try and find any reason to try to make something (I do) and try to make it nefarious.”
Zimmerman may have been referring to a complaint a town of Clifton man and others filed alleging Zimmerman didn’t actually live in River Falls. Instead, neighbors of properties in River Falls and the town, alleged that his primary residency actually was in the neighboring town of Clifton, which is outside his 30th Assembly District.
By a 4-2 vote, the Elections Commission, earlier this year, found there was no reasonable suspicion to believe that Zimmerman didn’t live in the district he represents, and dismissed the complaint.
Myer reacted to the Ethics Commission dismissing his complaint saying that Zimmerman gets the benefit of owning assets that he only acknowledges after an election.
“He also touts that he is creating jobs and investing in Wisconsin but we only learn after an investigation that he invests in out-of-state properties and doesn’t properly report them,” Myers said.