Embattled, little-known public official takes on state’s largest newspaper

Scott Japp

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

A little-known elected official, long at odds with his own board, is taking on a new opponent: the state’s largest newspaper which he calls asinine.

At the same time Scott Japp of the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District is getting more heat from the NRD including a possible investigation and/or legal action aimed at stopping Japp in his tracks.

Scott Japp

As Nebraska Watchdog has already reported Japp was branded “not authorized to speak” by the NRD in October.

Now he’s coming out loud and clear against the Omaha World-Herald which recently editorialized about “allegations of interference and conflict of interest” surrounding Japp.

The paper says Japp—who opposes a key component of the the NRD’s flood fighting plan—often seems “to wind up in the middle of confrontation.”

In turn Japp ridicules the World-Herald for its “thinly-veiled attempt to silence the people.”

In a lengthy statement emailed to Nebraska Watchdog (see below) Japp says the newspaper “implies, rather asininely, that if a majority of the board approves of a particular policy then you, the taxpayer, must also agree with it.”

All this stems from Japp’s opposition to a proposed 225-acre, $42 million dam site in northwest Douglas County due to be completed in two years.

At the same time the NRD is acquiring land for the project, Japp is apparently urging landowners to cut a separate deal.

According to a November 25, 2013 letter—sent to Nebraska Watchdog by the NRD—Japp, who apparently signed the letter, made the following sales pitch:

“I have been asked to represent Canudigit LLC, a firm that wants to acquire a lease agreement for the topsoil and the mineral material aggregates on the section of land…that would be acquired from a governmental agency. This royalty would be addition (sic) revenue to the price you would receive from the sale of the land to the PMNRD.”

Papio General Manager John Winkler calls the move an “effort to interfere with the NRD’s land acquisition program.”

On Thursday, the NRD board voted 7-2—Japp and Curt Frost voting “no”—to seek an injunction stopping the side-deal along with making Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine aware of the situation.

Japp has not returned Nebraska Watchdog’s request for comment.

But according to the minutes from the meeting Japp said he had nothing to do with Canudigit–even though his name and signature appear on the letter.

Japp, a Republican who has been elected twice by the voters in Washington, Burt, Thurston, and Dakota counties, is up for re-election in 2016— if he runs.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org and listen to Joe every Monday morning at 7:40 on KFAB radio in Omaha.

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Statement from Scott Japp:

Salvation Of The State

“The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.” This statement is carved into the wall of our State Capitol. There are two temptations that political institutions and citizens must over come: (1) the tendency for governmental agencies to accumulate more power and (2) complacency. As a prudent elected official I believe in this motto. I took an oath to uphold the laws of this state – not to deprive my constituents of their due process. So, when the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District board voted to approve a recreation and dam project that costs over $1 billion and would only provide $300 million of flood reduction for 100 years, this director voted no.

As you are probably aware by now, the powers-that-be find my particular stance on this issue to be somewhat odious. They simply cannot understand why I would choose to defend my constituents’ interests. I am of the mindset that disagreement can make for healthy debate; however, it’s one thing to disagree with a person’s position and quite another to actively pursue retribution against that person for his position. In this regard, some NRD officials, media outlets, and other special-interest lackeys have taken it upon themselves to do everything in their power to discredit my message of lower taxes, fiscal restraint, and public oversight. While these sordid minions continue to meander down the beaten path of baseless, grossly inaccurate, and potentially libelous character assassination, they should know that I will not be deterred in my efforts to continue fighting for you, my fellow constituents.

With that being said, I am not kowtowing to the irresponsible spending by a majority of the directors. When NRD land offers, for example, range from $8,500 to over $40,000 for the same type of land on the same dam project, one must ask why such a range? Might politics and good ol’ boy cronyism have something to do with it? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes. Why else would a former PMNRD director who supported the dam project, and is incidentally a landowner in the dam project area, be entitled to greater remuneration than, say, an 80-year-old farmer who was offered 75 percent less? The NRD has an obligation to make sure that all landowners are adequately compensated for best use. Yet, when this is pointed out, NRD officials level trumped-up charges and devise a massive public misinformation campaign against anyone who dares to speak the truth.

One example of this thinly-veiled attempt to silence the people appears in a recent Omaha World-Herald editorial, which implies, rather asininely, that if a majority of the board approves of a particular policy then you, the taxpayer, must also agree with it. The editorial also brazenly asserts that this is somehow the foundation for how democracy works. This line of reasoning is both specious and incorrigible. If we are to hold such a logical fallacy in high esteem, then what is to stop any governmental entity from pursuing a course of action that arbitrarily and capriciously rewards its friends and punishes its enemies? To paraphrase James Madison, we must be wary of factions lest the tyranny of the majority usurp individual liberty. When the NRD, in its infinite wisdom, decides that some landowners are not to be compensated for best use while others are, this is surely a sign of tyranny – not democracy.

Every two years, the citizens of Nebraska have the privilege of an election to express their desire on the outcome of their local government. For far too long we have ignored local government, where the vast majority of our tax spending occurs. The status quo has scarcely been challenged, and we are witnessing the abysmal results – increased welfare, more regulations, and the deterioration of infrastructure. Now, the accumulation of power by political subdivisions has reached a crescendo and is threatening to abscond with our rights. Where are the state governmental agencies? Shouldn’t they be watching out for the rights of the citizens? Moreover, are we prepared to tacitly accept the nascent, perverted notion that the gravitas of all public opinion, as the World-Herald editorial suggests, is simply concentrated in the hands of a small group of elected officials?

Enough is enough. Complacency must no longer be tolerated. It is time to throw out the bums and take back our control at all levels. There is more common sense in our coffee shops, and it is time to prove it.

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