Recent news reports reveal that Kenneth Zolnierek, a 52-year-old man found guilty of sex crimes between 1994 and 2008 and ordered to register as a sex offender, is now a write-in candidate for the position of sheriff of Bay County. While it may sound a bit disconcerting to have someone convicted of felony crimes running for sheriff, it is perfectly legal for Zolnierek to seek the office under Michigan elections law.
Zolnierek is a registered sex offender and was convicted on sex charges in Alpena in 1994. Zolnierek says his mission as Bay County Sheriff is to make people of the community feel safer and more at home so they don’t have to lock their doors.”
Data obtained from the Michigan Department of Corrections revealed that since 1984, Zolnierek has been convicted on numerous charges including:
- 2 Counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct (force or coercion)
- 2 Counts of unlawfully driving away an automobile
- Prisoner possessing contraband
- Uttering and publishing
- Child sexually abusive material or activity – Distributing and/or promoting
In 2008, the candidate pleaded no-contest in Bay County to charges of distributing or promoting child sexually abusive activity; he served prison time. Zolnierek claims that in 1994 when he was convicted of fourth-degree CSC he was “young, dumb, and stupid.” He says that he said something lewd to a woman as he was urinating outside a bar, and that the woman had children in the car with her. He blames the incident on drinking, and claims that he no longer drinks and wants the opportunity to better himself and the community.
The 2008 incident involved Zolnierek pictured in photos touching a 16-year-old girl’s breast, although reports say the touching was done over clothing. At that time, his 17-year-old fiancée turned over photos that were said to be sexually explicit over to investigators. Zolnierek said about this incident that he once owned a company that produced calendars for mechanic, welding, and similar shops. He was sentenced to two years and 10 months to seven years in prison for the most recent incident, according to DOC records.
At his sentencing hearing for the 2008 charges, Zolnierek told the judge he had lung, throat, and rectal cancer along with leukemia. He now says his cancer is in remission. The sheriff candidate said that his primary concerns in the area were kids running around with weapons and drug dealers selling to kids.
Some feel that Zolnierek would not be capable of fulfilling the duties he would be elected to if he became sheriff, due to the fact he cannot possess weapons as a convicted felon.
John E. Miller, current Bay County Sheriff, is not seeking reelection this fall. Other candidates include Jason Holsapple, retired Deputy Robert “Bobby” Lee, Undersheriff Troy Cunningham, and Pinconning Police Sgt. Terry Spencer.