A member of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District board has filed an open-meetings complaint with the Nebraska Attorney General, alleging that other board members met secretly to increase the 2014 budget, then approved falsified meeting minutes to cover it up.
In the October complaint, two-term board member Scott Japp asked Attorney General Jon Bruning to investigate why the property tax requirement listed in the public notice for the district’s 2014 budget is $480,000 larger than a draft version that went before a committee at a preliminary hearing in August.
Papio NRD General Manager John Winkler said the complaint reveals a basic lack of knowledge about the budgeting process. Preliminary drafts are always subject to change, he said.
“No open meetings act violations occurred. No budgeting procedures or rules were violated,” Winkler said.
He added: “It could be a billion dollars difference. ... The budget isn’t final until it is approved and submitted to the state in September.”
Winkler didn’t rule out legal action against Japp, calling his accusations “baseless, slanderous and defamatory.”
This isn’t the first time that Japp, who represents Washington County and parts of Burt, Thurston and Dakota Counties, has leveled accusations of financial mismanagement at the district. He opposes plans to build a number of dams in the metro area, and he has accused district officials of withholding documents that would allow him to scrutinize the deals more closely.
After the board voted in April to censure him for what it called an ongoing pattern of rude and abusive behavior, Japp sent a complaint to Bruning alleging a number of financial misdeeds by NRD staff.
Bruning forwarded the complaint to State Auditor Mike Foley, who found no wrongdoing. Foley said he has added Japp’s current complaint to the file, “but we are not currently working on this matter.”
In July, the board passed a resolution condemning Japp’s “alienating manner, and his extreme and reckless assertions and accusations.” It also directed Winkler to write other local governments to say that Japp is not authorized to speak on behalf of the district.
In protest, Japp sat silent through the November board meeting.