Former MECA board member Jamie Gutierrez Mora will not face criminal prosecution related to her improper voter registration.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine told The World-Herald that he does not believe there is enough evidence to suggest Gutierrez Mora intended to commit fraud when she registered to vote in Douglas County late last year.
Kleine agrees with Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale's opinion that Gutierrez Mora did not live at the South Omaha address she listed on her voter registration form, and instead lived at a home she owns in Sarpy County.
But after a review of Gale's findings — which came from the secretary of state's review of voting, business, court and tax filings, among other documents — Kleine said he was satisfied that Gutierrez Mora's issue was confusion, not the intent to commit a crime.
Gutierrez Mora wrote in an email that she's disappointed she cannot serve on the MECA board, but is "grateful" for Gale's "thoughtful investigation."
"I respect the opinion that was delivered," she wrote. "I appreciate and believe that Mr. Kleine and Mr. Gale have a better understanding of my situation. They took the time to understand why I felt comfortable with my registration, found no wrong doing and know I acted in good faith and with good intention."
In August, The World-Herald first reported the questions surrounding Gutierrez Mora's residency related to her position on the MECA board. That led the Omaha city attorney to launch an investigation in which he concluded that Gutierrez Mora did not meet requirements to serve on the board.
Gutierrez Mora owns homes in Bellevue and Carmel, Calif., along with the home in South Omaha, a rental property that's been divided into three units. She has said she considers all of the properties her home and believed she could select one as her “domicile of record” when she registered to vote and when she was appointed to serve on the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority Board in March. She also pointed to her longtime business and civic ties to Omaha as evidence that the city is her home.
An agreement between MECA and the City of Omaha requires board members to be a “resident elector” of Douglas County.
Kleine did not interview Gutierrez Mora but spoke with her attorney, who told him Gutierrez Mora would consider registering to vote in Sarpy County or, if her living situation changed, keeping it in Douglas County.
Kleine said he also considered information provided by a representative of Gutierrez Mora to Gale in an email, which outlined her connections to the South Omaha home. The email explained that the home had been owned by Gutierrez Mora's husband before the two were married and that the family kept one unit for their own use.
Gutierrez Mora declined to say how often she stayed in the home, but said she kept belongings there and could use it during the work day and for entertaining family members and ministry groups from the area, as well as for “taking time to relax and unwind.”
Kleine said it was clear Gutierrez Mora did not meet residency requirements under state law.
When they register to vote, Nebraskans sign an oath that states: “To the best of my knowledge and belief, I declare under penalty of election falsification that: I live in the state of Nebraska at the address provided in this application.”
The oath also says that knowingly providing false information amounts to voter falsification, a felony.
But Kleine said he believes Gutierrez Mora had “well-intentioned,” if incorrect, beliefs about voter registration rules when she signed her name. He added that officials may need to consider making the oath more clear to avoid other problems in the future.
“We would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that her purpose was to commit voter fraud,” he said. “And I don't believe we could.”