Friday, August 12, 2005

D-Day for "the Degenerate Regent"

by Kyle Michaelis

It's past midnight folks, making it Friday, August 12 - the end of the 60 days afforded by Nebraska's legislature to Regent David Hergert for him to resign without facing the possibility of impeachment for his flagrant violations of state campaign finance laws during the 2004 election.

Hergert's response? "Hell no, I won't go"...

This sets up an interesting showdown. The legislature voted 31-0 calling for Hergert's resignation, showing there's definitely some resolve in that body to remove him from office. The question is whether impeachment is even an option, since state law generally reserves it for offenses committed "in office." A reasonable case can be made, however, that how one goes about securing such office is related enough to their elected duties as to be indistinguishable.

Because of Hergert's refusal to resign, the matter could well go to the courts to be settled, although the Lincoln Journal-Star already mentions censure being discussed in the legislature as an alternative means of punishment to avoid a prolonged and very costly battle.

Meanwhile, yesterday's Omaha World-Herald provided it's usual one-sided spin, lionizing Hergert as a beleagured old man and choosing only to quote voters from Hergert's district who support his staying in office. Have a taste of this garbage:
With a legislative deadline looming, University of Nebraska Regent David Hergert repeated that he has no plans to resign.

"I paid the penalties, and as far as I'm concerned, the issue is closed," Hergert said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

The next move will be determined Aug. 22, when the Legislature's nine-member Executive Board meets to consider appointing a special committee in the case....

Also pending is a criminal investigation of Hergert's campaign activities by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. That investigation, requested by some lawmakers, is being conducted by the State Patrol. A spokeswoman for Bruning said the investigation continues.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, another Executive Board member, said he will distribute a lengthy legal memorandum to lawmakers Friday, coinciding with Hergert's deadline.

Chambers said it will spell out legal reasons why the Legislature has the authority to impeach Hergert for violating campaign finance laws.

"I'm more convinced of that now than I was at the outset," Chambers said.

Hergert's representatives have argued that the Nebraska Constitution authorizes impeachment only for misdeeds in office - not while campaigning for office....

In western Nebraska, where Hergert carried 29 of 35 counties in defeating incumbent Don Blank of McCook last November, random interviews found citizens with mixed feelings about Hergert's campaign finance problems.

Connie Amateis of Bridgeport said she thinks voters should have another crack at deciding whether Hergert should represent them.

Without that opportunity, she said, "senators should listen to the input of citizens, because we voted him in."

Like several of those interviewed, Amateis was critical of Hergert's violations but was not convinced that he should resign. "I'd like to know more about it," she said.

Mike Kantz of Gering said he voted for Hergert because he likes what the Panhandle businessman has done to promote agriculture.

"While an investigation is under way is not the time to be saying whether he should stay in office," Kantz said.

Sidney barber Loren Avey, a city councilman, said the Legislature should stay out of it. "When the voters vote something in, that should mean something," Avey said. "If not, why do we bother?"

Frank Gillick, who lives in Hergert's hometown of Mitchell, said it is understandable that someone could get behind on paperwork and miss deadlines.

"I don't think he was outright trying to scam the guy (Blank)," Gillick said. "He should stay in office."

Tim Holzfaster, owner of Ole's Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge in Paxton, said he has heard people criticize Hergert's actions while also supporting his remaining on the Board of Regents.

"What is more important to most people is that he would be an effective leader for western Nebraska," Holzfaster said. "That's why he carried the vote like he did."

Dora Livingston of Broadwater said she had mixed emotions about Hergert.

"I did vote for him. I'm not sure he should be ousted, but if he's going to run for office, he should know the law and follow it to the letter."

After some more thought, Livingston added: "I don't think he should resign."

Well, there you have it folks. No one ANYWHERE in Western Nebraska thinks Hergert should resign. Nope. Not one person gives a damn that a liar and a cheat who plays games with state law without even the pretense of honor to hold onto an ill-gotten office is sitting pretty on the Board of Regents dictating policies intended to develop University students who up-hold traditions of honesty, integrity, and excellence. My God, have we sunk so low that leadership by example is too much to expect?

That seems to be the line the World-Herald is trying to sell, but don't believe it for a second. Why, look at this. Here's some people the World-Herald definitely didn't talk to (or at least didn't quote) from Hergert's home county who aren't willing to give his multiple offenses a free pass, and I'm sure there are PLENTY MORE who similarly recognize the rules are there for a reason and that they must have consequences.

The Scotts Bluff County Democrats passed the following resolution calling for Hergert's resignation:
WHEREAS University of Nebraska Regent C. David Hergert violated campaign finance laws resulting in his election in November of 2004;

WHEREAS the Legislature of the State of Nebraska has embarked on proceedings that could lead to impeachment of Regent Hergert based on those violations which caused his opponent to lose public matching money of more than $15,000;

WHEREAS these violations will continue to gain attention and subsequent activities by the Legislature and other state government bodies will continue to mount just as important items are to be discussed by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents which will ultimately impact interests in western Nebraska;

WHEREAS though many western Nebraskans, including many registered Democrats, voted for Mr. Hergert in the hopes that someone from the panhandle of Nebraska would provide a voice for western interests, it is apparent that his current legal woes inhibit his ability to perform his duties;

NOW THEREFORE, the Scotts Bluff County Democratic Party resolves that the appropriate action for Mr. Hergert is to resign his office and allow the Governor to name a replacement who can perform effectively without a shroud of controversy.

They didn't even touch on the integrity of the office or the good of the students, so I say there was plenty more indecency and impropriety where this came from. Still, it's good to see someone make a stand even if the powers-that-be in this state choose not to recognize their voice.

Wow, can you imagine how up-in-arms these citizens the World-Herald dug-up calling for the legislature to respect the will of the voters must have been when the Republican Congress actually impeached their duly-elected President, Bill Clinton, for fibbing about a sexual relationship that had zero bearing on his office?

Yeah, I'd just love to hear their opinions on that one. I reckon there'd be more hypocrisy there than I could even muster the sarcasm to mock.


Post a Comment

<< Home