LINCOLN — A court-appointed referee has recommended against disbarring former State Sen. Brenda Council for using campaign funds to gamble.
Instead, Fremont attorney Thomas Thomsen recommended that her law license be suspended for one year and that she be put on probation for two years after that.
Thomsen heard evidence from both sides on charges filed by the Nebraska Supreme Court's Counsel for Discipline.
The state high court will use the recommendation in deciding whether to discipline Council. A decision is not expected until later next year.
In his report, Thomsen praised Council's record of service and her willingness to tackle her gambling addiction.
“This referee does not believe that the legal profession or society (the people of Omaha and the citizens of the state of Nebraska) will benefit one iota if the respondent loses her license to practice law or receives a long-term suspension,” he said.
Initial disciplinary charges were filed against Council's license on April 30, based on her two misdemeanor convictions in state court for abuse of public records. She pleaded guilty and was fined $250 for each charge.
Additional charges were filed Oct. 8, after felony wire fraud charges were filed in U.S. District Court. In a plea deal, she was fined $500 and put on probation for three years.
Both criminal cases involved Council's use of more than $63,000 of her campaign funds at casinos over 2½ years.
Her misuse of the campaign funds came to light last year, when Attorney General Jon Bruning filed the charges in Lancaster County Court.
Thomsen's report listed several well-known Omahans who testified or provided affidavits supporting Council.
Among them were Susie Buffett, the daughter of investor Warren Buffett; Lyn Wallin Ziegenbein, former executive director of the Peter Kiewit Foundation; Lorraine Chang, chairwoman of the Learning Community Council of Douglas and Sarpy Counties; Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray; former Omaha Public Schools Board member Freddie Gray; former Omaha Mayor Mike Boyle; and Public Service Commission member Anne Boyle.