A look into the likely identity of one member of the Assembly Speaker’s publicly funded investigation.
Photo: Andy Manis, Getty Images
The story was produced in partnership with The NEWcomer, an independent publication covering politics, art, and culture in Northeast Wisconsin.
While Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has slowly and begrudgingly confirmed the names of two retired cops joining a private taskforce he has hired to investigate bogus claims of fraud in the 2020 elections, and announced that a former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice will supervise the effort, Vos has withheld the identities of one more.
The reasons for the secrecy around the officers’ identities is not clear—Vos is paying for the investigation with taxpayer funds. A joint reporting effort by Tone Madison and The NEWcomer points to the likely identity of one other officer Vos has hired or plans to hire: Monica “Nikki” Janke, formerly of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.
During her tenure, Janke headed up BCSO’s part of an investigation into former Green Bay mayor Jim Schmitt’s 2016 campaign finance violations. Schmitt, a Republican, served as the city’s mayor from 2003 to 2019. In 2016, prosecutors charged Schmitt with three misdemeanors, saying that he accepted illegal campaign contributions and then covered it up. Schmitt eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay fines and perform community service hours.
Wisconsin trial lawyer Patrick Knight, who was Schmitt’s attorney in 2016, told The NEWcomer the leading investigator was a woman who worked closely alongside prosecuting attorney Bruce Landgraf.
A 2016 criminal complaint against Schmitt written by Sgt. Nikki Janke lists her as the complaining witness alongside attorney Landgraf.
The NEWcomer reached out to multiple recently retired BSCO officers in an effort to confirm that Janke has been hired to participate in Vos’ investigation. Former deputy Christine Bilgo told The NEWcomer that of any likely candidates, it would be “Nikki Jossart.” Jossart is Janke’s former name, and she can be found listed on police reports as Sgt. Monica Jossart or as Nikki Janke. Bilgo said Janke was heavily involved in Janke’s husband’s campaign for Oconto County Sheriff and had a long tenure in investigative work.
Nikki Janke is currently married to Ed Janke, former Oconto County Sheriff Chief Deputy who ran for Sheriff in 2018 and is the current Director Of Public Safety and Fire Chief for the Village of Howard.
When asked if Nikki Janke was the former BSCO officer selected by Speaker Vos, Ed Janke referred The NEWcomer to speak with her directly. Nikki Janke has not returned a request for comment.
Speaker Vos’s office has not returned repeated requests for comment as of Monday morning.
Janke retired from the Brown County Sheriff’s Office in 2018 after a 30-year career during which she attained the rank of detective sergeant. A LinkedIn page for Janke says she held a number of positions within the Sheriff’s Office throughout her career, including correctional worker at the Brown County Jail, patrol officer, drug agent, field training supervisor, and fraud investigator.
Since retirement, Janke has testified in two famed Green Bay court cases: the trial of James Prokopovitz—who was convicted of killing his wife, Victoria Prokopovitz, and is currently serving a life sentence—and the trial of George Burch, sentenced to life in prison for the 2016 killing of Nicole VanderHeyden.
On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that the retired police officers Vos has hired will be paid $3,200 a month each to investigate “potential irregularities and/or illegalities” in the 2020 presidential election. The AP identified two members of the task force so far: retired Milwaukee Police detective Mike Sandvick and former Eau Claire Detective Sgt. and current private investigator Steve Page. The AP confirmed the names by using an open-records request to obtain Sandvick and Page’s hiring contracts; Vos’ office did not comment for the story. Sandvick has a history of stoking election-fraud claims: In 2008, he led a dubious investigation that claimed to find an “illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome” evidence of Wisconsin’s 2004 election. Experts at the Brennan Center for Justice, a public-policy institute at New York University that focuses heavily on voting rights, examined Sandvick’s report and said it mostly just found evidence of clerical errors.
Vos’ investigation comes as Republicans across the country continue a coordinated effort to push the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former president Donald Trump. Dozens of election lawsuits have failed to establish a legal or factual basis for overturning the election results. Journalistic fact-checks and governmental investigations—including one Republican state legislators conducted in Michigan—have debunked claims of widespread tampering and fraud. Trump’s own former Attorney General, Bill Barr, has also publicly broken with Trump over these claims.
During the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s annual convention this past weekend—as he tried to deflect an attack from Trump and as some members of his own party called on him to resign—Speaker Vos announced that former conservative state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman would oversee his election investigation. Gableman himself gave a speech at the convention, demolishing any pretense that the investigation will be anything but a Republican propaganda effort.
Gableman is a noted and public Trump supporter who upheld a 4-3 conservative majority during his tenure on the state Supreme Court. Gableman wrote opinions in support of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 and intervened in the 2011 John Doe investigations into Walker’s campaign. Gableman’s investigation oversight compensation has not been disclosed at this time.
In Brown County, the city of Green Bay continues to be embroiled in unsubstantiated election fraud claims. The Wisconsin Elections Commission referred a minuscule 27 people, of over 3 million votes cast, for prosecution for illegal voter activity in the 2020 general election.