Local News

Lincoln County commissioners Monday will return to the fate of ousted County Treasurer Lorie Koertner after state officials unveil their findings on her office’s condition during her brief tenure.

Routine business will open the board’s weekly 9 a.m. meeting in the North Platte courthouse before the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts presents its “attestation” of the Treasurer’s Office books at 9:50 a.m.

The attestation report should be posted early Monday morning on the Auditor’s Office website at auditors.state.ne.us, an office staff member said last week.

A brief executive session will follow the Auditor’s Office presentation before commissioners reconvene a fact-finding hearing begun May 20, a week after they voted to remove Koertner under a little-used 1879 law.

If the County Board determines that Koertner’s actions in office violated that law, it “shall discuss and consider whether or not to remove (Koertner) from office,” according to the meeting’s posted agenda.

Koertner succeeded retiring Treasurer Sue Fleck in January after winning the May 2018 Republican primary and being unopposed in November’s general election. She had been county treasurer in Webster County before joining Fleck’s staff.

Section 23-1603 of Nebraska law enables commissioners to remove a treasurer who “neglects or refuses to render any account or settlement required by law, fails or neglects to account for any balance due the state, county, township, school district or any other municipal subdivision or is guilty of any other misconduct in office.”

But an 1880 Nebraska Supreme Court decision says a county board must also issue a “judgment of ouster” listing specific reasons for removal after hearing and weighing evidence. Such a judgment was not issued at the time Koertner was removed.

The North Platte school board approved $3.7 million in short-term borrowing the evening of May 13, after the County Board’s removal vote.

School officials said the step was needed because repeated shortfalls in expected property tax receipts from the Treasurer’s Office had forced them to exhaust their cash reserves. Tax collections have been recovering since Koertner’s removal, they said at the July 8 school board meeting.

Several other Lincoln County local governments — including the Sutherland school district, the city of North Platte and the Mid-Plains Community College Area — reported similar tax-collection shortfalls after Koertner took office.

Koertner condemned the County Board’s removal vote, saying she had “not committed one act that even remotely justifies discipline,” as the board’s fact-finding hearing opened May 20. That session was recessed pending the auditor’s report.

Commissioners named Treasurer’s Office employee Shelli Franzen as interim treasurer at their May 20 meeting. Fleck was asked to temporarily resume the post but declined.

Other business on Monday’s agenda includes consideration of three special designated liquor licenses and resumption of the County Board’s hearings on 2019 property tax protests.

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