Rep. Shannon Zimmerman omits Florida vacation rental business from ethics filings

By: - January 21, 2021 7:00 am
Rep. Shannon Zimmerman

Rep. Shannon Zimmerman is sworn in on Jan. 8. (Rep. Shannon Zimmerman | Facebook)

State Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) is an agent of a vacation rental business in Florida, yet failed to disclose that fact in his statements of economic interest (SEI). 

Wisconsin government officials are required under state ethics laws to disclose all business interests and commercial real estate properties. The vacation rental company, Southern Latitude Retreat, was incorporated as a limited liability company (LLC) in Florida in 2018. Zimmerman’s statements for the years 2018-2020 do not list Southern Latitude Retreat as a business interest. 

Zimmerman’s 2020 SEI does list a nearly $800,000 waterfront home in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., as non-commercial real estate. 

“It’s certainly something that the public has every right and should know about,” says Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, a clean government organization. “Whether or not he neglected to list it because it’s not a Wisconsin holding, it’s a Florida holding, it’s something he needs to amend and owes an explanation to his constituents. Transparency with regard to your financial holdings is an important part of Wisconsin law.”

Officials are also required to list all business partners on their SEIs. The Florida LLC filing lists three others as agents — Zimmerman’s wife, Angela, and Augusta residents Joseph and Lori Bechtel — yet none of them are listed as business partners on his SEIs. 

The existence of the corporate filing was previously reported by Up North News, which used the paperwork as evidence Zimmerman does not live in the district he represents. The LLC filing lists W10887 875th Ave. in the town of Clifton, as the Zimmerman’s residence — which is outside of the 30th Assembly district. To serve in his office, Zimmerman says he lives in a River Falls residence with his son, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

The vacation rental business operates two Facebook pages, Southern Latitude Retreat and Southern Latitude Retreat II. Both pages advertise rental opportunities for two properties in Fort Myers Beach. 

“If you have not been to Ft. Myers Beach, we totally recommend it! It is an island right off of Ft. Myers and has a great beachy vibe,” a Facebook post states. “We fell in love with it the first time we visited and have not regretted it since. This is our 2nd property.”

Zimmerman frequently makes comments from his personal Facebook account on the page’s posts. He also appears in several photos posted by the account. 

Sarah Yacoub, who lost to Zimmerman in last year’s election, says Zimmerman is working as a full-time legislator while benefiting from businesses in other states. 

“Rather than invest in our community here in Western Wisconsin, Rep. Zimmerman — as a full-time legislator — puts his money into Florida’s economy to his own personal enrichment on the time and dime of Wisconsin taxpayers,” she says. “The fact that he hides his business from the voters speaks to his lack of integrity and fitness for public office. The people of the 30th Assembly District deserve better.”

Aside from the Florida LLC, Zimmerman holds an interest in — and discloses — his involvement in several River Falls businesses. His SEI lists two commercial real estate businesses, Belle Vinez Properties and River Valley Business Center, as well as a winery, Belle Vinez Winery. 

Zimmerman did not respond to a request for comment.

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.