LINCOLN — The Lancaster County Lawyer’s Workplace has declined to file felony fees in reference to a diversion of $270,000 in funds by the then-head of Historical past Nebraska, Trevor Jones.
The Nebraska state auditor had raised questions in regards to the diversion of the funds, saying it may probably symbolize official misconduct, theft or embezzlement.
The considerations had been forwarded to the Nebraska Lawyer Basic’s Workplace and in the end to the Lancaster County Lawyer’s Workplace for evaluate.
However this week, County Lawyer Pat Condon mentioned his workplace won’t be submitting any felony fees. He added, although, that state statutes relating to dealing with of donated funds ought to be reviewed to make such transfers much less seemingly.
Pandemic threatened layoffs, cutbacks
Within the spring of 2020, because the COVID-19 pandemic first arrived within the state, Historical past Nebraska reached out to the Nebraska State Historic Society Basis for monetary assist.
The inspiration responded by issuing two checks, of about $270,000, to the company to go off any layoffs or cutbacks in applications attributable to an anticipated lack of income as a result of pandemic.
However as a substitute of utilizing the cash for personnel or applications and COVID aid, Jones, who resigned in July, opted to deposit the funds with a newly created Historical past Nebraska Basis.
The state auditor, in a report first published by the Nebraska Examiner, acknowledged that funds donated to the state ought to be deposited with the state treasurer, not diverted to a personal basis. Not doing so, the August report stated, raised the potential of a number of felony offenses.
State time for personal basis
The audit report additionally raised considerations about some bills Jones had charged to the Historical past Nebraska Basis and questioned whether or not he had utilized state assets and his state time to work on the non-public basis.
However Condon mentioned that the priority in regards to the fund change “doesn’t match into the felony statutes nicely” and that no prosecutions can be pursued.
A name and a textual content left with Jones on Wednesday afternoon weren’t instantly returned. He had advised Historical past Nebraska officers that he was moving to France upon his resignation.
Officers with Historical past Nebraska and its board of trustees additionally didn’t reply instantly to requests for remark.
Cash ought to be used for supposed objective
State Historic Society Basis officers mentioned that the cash ought for use for its supposed objective — to bolster applications and operations — or else returned to the Basis.
“The underside line continues to be – we gave them cash for Covid, they usually made the cash go someplace else,” mentioned Gail DeBuse Potter, the president of the State Historic Society Basis.
The Historic Society Basis, which has existed for eight a long time, despatched demand letters to Historical past Nebraska in June and once more in October asking the company to “get well” its funds from the brand new basis, which was shaped in 2020.
These demand letters didn’t elicit a response, Potter mentioned.
‘Simply put (cash) in the fitting place’
Condon advised that the inspiration file a civil lawsuit to get well the funds. However Potter mentioned the Historic Society Basis first plans to ask the Nebraska Lawyer Basic’s Workplace to compel that the funds be transferred.
“Simply put (the cash) in the fitting place,” Potter mentioned. “Why ought to our basis be funding their basis?”
The brand new Historical past Nebraska Basis was shaped amid a spat between Historical past Nebraska and the older, extra established Nebraska State Historic Society Basis over the usage of greater than $1 million donated funds to create a farm exhibit. The previous basis maintains that Historical past Nebraska’s plans didn’t conform with the desires of the donor.
The State Auditor’s Workplace, in its report in August, questioned whether or not Jones, then the CEO and director of Historical past Nebraska, had the authorization to deposit the checks supplied by the older basis right into a checking account of the brand new basis.
The auditor additionally questioned whether or not Jones, as a state worker, ought to have been managing and administering the monetary affairs of the non-public Historical past Nebraska Basis for a lot of 2020 and 2021.
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