Monday, November 14, 2005

Hergert in Hiding

by Kyle Michaelis
The Daily Nebraskan has provided some truly outstanding reporting lately, particularly with reporter Meredith Grunke's coverage of Dave Hergert's evermore embarrassing presence on the Nebraska Board of Regents. This week, however, the DN is looking beyond Hergert's cheating and the resulting public outcry, more generally examining in a four-part series the purpose of the Board of Regents and the reasoning behind several Regents' ridiculous levels of campaign spending to win their seats.

The first such article reports:
In 2000, Regent Randy Ferlic of Omaha spent $290,000 on his campaign.

In 2002, Regent Howard Hawks of Omaha spent almost $450,000 to win the District 2 seat.

In 2005, Regent Dave Hergert of Mitchell paid $33,000 in fines alone to maintain his seat after admitting to campaign finance violations in his 2004 election. Regent Drew Miller of Papillion paid $6,000 for violations committed during his campaign for re-election to the board in 2000.

And they did it all to become one of the eight unpaid members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

Regents’ travel and other expenses associated with their official university duties are covered, but they otherwise serve without compensation – aside from two season football tickets, parking passes and tickets to NU events....

So why did the regents run, and what do they get out of their position?

That's an important question to which the people of Nebraska deserve an answer, particularly from those candidates who have seemingly bought their seats by violating campaign finance laws and out-spending their opponents by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, unsurprisingly, it is these candidates - the Ferlics, Hawks, and Millers - who provide the least satisfactory responses.

The print edition also includes this amusing and revealing Reporter's Note:
As Regent Dave Hergert left Varner Hall's boardroom Friday during a break in the Board of Regents meeting, I asked him if I could schedule a time to speak with him about this week's series about the board.

While he ran up the stairs, I called up to him, saying I just wanted to make sure his voice was included in the article. Hergert replied by saying he's been very busy.

But that response was nothing new - I've heard it several times before. After attempts to contact Hergert through e-mail and multiple phone calls, I was unsuccessful at ensuring Hergert had that voice.

I offered to miss a day of class last week to travel to Scottsbluff and interview Hergert personally. But business was too busy, he and his secretary said.

And so, Hergert is the only regent not quoted in today's opening story.

Of course, Hergert had just been scolded and asked again to resign by members of Huskers Against Hergert for half an hour of public comment, so it's understandable why he might not have been in a very talkative mood. He also can't appreciate the DN's continued criticism, nor the poll they published last week that poked a hole bigger than Hergert's head through the delusional theory that he still has the support of Western Nebraska voters.

But running from and evading a reporter for a college newspaper - that's just sad. Besides, he's been making the same excuses for months to print and TV media all over the state to avoid having to go on record and answer any tough questions about his unethical conduct. It's pathetic.

Hergert should do himself a favor - do this state a favor - for the sake of the University, its students, and it's reputation - the time has come to resign.


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