Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Dyango Zerpa Resigns From County Board

Freshman supervisor expensed unapproved hotel stay to county credit card.

By - Jan 27th, 2023 02:06 pm
Dyango Zerpa. Photo from Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

Dyango Zerpa. Photo from Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

Dyango Zerpa has resigned his seat on the Milwaukee Board of Supervisors as of Friday, Jan. 27.

Zerpa’s attorney, Michael Maistelman, told Urban Milwaukee Thursday, “Supervisor Zerpa is resigning from the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors effective January 27, 2023 to pursue other career opportunities.” The supervisor was only eight months into his first two-year term on the board.

Zerpa was fired from his job as a legislative aide to State Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez in July for filing inaccurate time cards, attempting to be paid for hours he did not work. Zerpa had followed the Democratic state representative to Madison after working as her legislative aide during her time on the county board. After Ortiz-Velez opted not to run again for county board, Zerpa ran for her seat.

Since news of his firing, county insiders have speculated about possible campaign finance violations based upon a number of irregularities in Zerpa’s reports.

Zerpa last attended a county board meeting on Dec. 15. In January, he was listed as excused for three board committee meetings on which he serves.

Trip to Puerto Rico

In July 2022, Zerpa attended the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And according to documents and emails obtained by Urban Milwaukee, the supervisor sought reimbursement from the county for a longer hotel stay than what was unapproved, then lied to county board staff about the expense.

Supervisors are able to expense the board’s individual office account (IOA) for lodging and travel related to their duties as elected officials.

Zerpa was informed by two staff members of the Milwaukee County Board that the county would only cover lodging expenses beginning the night before the conference (July 24) up until the final night of the conference (July 30). On July 15, Lindsey Lefebre, deputy chief of staff for the board, informed Zerpa of the allowed dates; and again on July 18, before the lodging was booked, Zerpa’s legislative assistant Jaqueline Mendoza-Bernal informed him of the lodging dates that could be reimbursed.

On Aug. 1, two days after the conference ended, Zerpa sent an email to Mendoza-Bernal explaining that he charged an extra night at the hotel to the county’s credit card.

“So there was a bit of an oversight with the arrangements for the LULAC convention trip. The hotel was apparently only booked to the 30th and should have been up to the 31st. They told me they just charged an extra day to the credit card that they had on file. Since my flight was on the 31st and the convention’s last day was the 31st,” wrote Zerpa.

But there was no conference on July 31. LULAC ended on July 30, consistent with Zerpa’s initial approval.

So why the date shuffle?

A person with knowledge of Zerpa’s itinerary told Urban Milwaukee that Zerpa flew out of San Juan on July 30, and that his girlfriend who also traveled to Puerto Rico that weekend, flew out on the evening of July 31.

On Aug. 17, Zerpa was informed that he needed to reimburse the county for the extra night at the hotel, $110. The county did not receive a check until Nov. 16.

Supervisors are given approximately $10,000 each year for their individual office accounts. Half of these funds are allowed for mailings to their district and the other half is for additional outreach and conference attendance costs. On July 20, when Zerpa’s travel expenses were approved, there was only $842 remaining in his district account.

Campaign Finance Reports

Zerpa’s campaign finance reports have been noted by county insiders and observers for their irregularities, including a reimbursement that exceeded the listed donation

In May 2021, Phil Schmidt contributed $100 to Zerpa’s campaign. A February 2022 campaign finance statement lists $150 being returned to Schmidt. Urban Milwaukee has learned that Schmidt is a close friend of Zerpa.

As required, Zerpa filed three campaign finance reports leading up to the spring 2022 election. But he never signed or dated the report for the period between Feb. 1 and March 21.

He did not file a report for the period running through June 30 until Nov. 18, shortly after he also reimbursed the county for the misappropriated hotel stay. The report was due in mid-July.

The report Zerpa ultimately filed showed no activity.

Zerpa’s campaign also returned a $1,000 contribution to his mother, Virginia Zerpa and a $500 contribution to his step-father, Carlos Uriona.

A special election could be called to fill the remainder of Zerpa’s two-year term, which runs through April 2024.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Categories: MKE County, Politics

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us