(KFOR NEWS August 16, 2022) LINCOLN — The Omaha World Herald is reporting the former head of History Nebraska diverted money intended to help the state agency deal with COVID losses into a private foundation.
According to a state audit conducted by Deputy State Auditor, Craig Kubicek, the legality of actions by Trevor Jones, who resigned as History Nebraska’s executive director and CEO as of July 1 following a controversial tenure, are called into question.
“Any state employee who intercepts and diverts funds to which a state agency is legally entitled — especially if he or she can be shown to have benefitted personally from such wrongful action — does so at the risk of violating certain criminal statutes,” the report said.
In April 2020, the History Nebraska Board of Trustees asked the foundation for help weathering losses related to pandemic-related closures and disruptions. The foundation responded by offering money from a discretionary account, which was available for “any valid purpose.” However, instead of turning over the checks to the state treasurer for the benefit of History Nebraska, Jones endorsed them himself and deposited the money into the newly created History Nebraska Foundation, a rival to the older foundation, the audit said. At the time, the checks accounted for about 90% of the money held by that new foundation.
A subpoena of the new foundation’s bank records showed that Jones had endorsed more than 100 checks deposited into the foundation’s account through October 2021 and was one of only two signatories for the organization’s check payments.
- Whether Jones benefited personally from the foundation. He received one check for $99.60 and a foundation debit card showed $112.20 worth of purchases at bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants that the audit said “may” have benefited him. The audit also questioned charges to Bill.com, an accounts payable, cloud-based platform, that were not itemized.
- Cases in which mailroom staff were reportedly told not to log or endorse certain checks, as was the normal practice, but to give the money to the chief financial officer. Staffers also were reportedly told not to open mail from certain banks that may contain bank statements.
- Use of state resources to benefit the new private foundation, including shared logos, joint promotions, shared mailing addresses and having a link to donate to the foundation on the state-run History Nebraska website.