Nebraska City shake-up: Top officials ousted, still getting paid

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

Nebraska City’s historic Arbor Lodge

Two top city officials in Nebraska City are being shown the door but until they’re gone for good they’re still getting paid “at least for today,” according to City Attorney David Partsch.

As Nebraska Watchdog has reported the city council surprisingly decided earlier this week not to reappoint City Administrator Joe Johnson and City Clerk-Treasurer Arnold Ehlers.

Partsch tells Nebraska Watchdog the council’s decision followed an 80-minute closed-door meeting, which was called to “discuss job performance issues and protect the reputation of any individuals discussed.”

Nebraska Watchdog: Are Johnson and Ehlers accused of any wrongdoing?

David Partsch: Nothing that would rise to the level of any type of criminal wrongdoing…I don’t know exactly what was discussed in the executive session but there are no charges filed against them for removal, so there’s no allegations of that sort.

Ehlers was voted out 3-2. Johnson was ousted on a 2-2 vote, with one councilman abstaining.

According to Partsch, at least one councilman stated publicly that he was bothered by some wording in the city’s wide-ranging budget document, which includes historical statements, flow charts and maps.

Nebraska Watchdog: Were they accused of changing some of the documents?

David Partsch: (A councilman) raised the issue of how did language in there get changed from one of the drafts, he thought the draft he had, had been approved…he was referencing some of the language, not claiming there were any changes to the actual numbers in the budget.

Partsch says Johnson acknowledged that if changes were made they were his responsibility.

According to the Nebraska City News-Press, Johnson was hired in 2011 at a salary of $83,500.

The city’s website says Johnson has been responsible for the day-to-day handling of personnel, operations, and finances.

Ehlers, who is also the city’s Finance Officer, is responsible for “all city and utility funds, official record-keeping, account management, special projects, and administrative staff.”

According to Partsch, because Johnson and Ehlers were not “removed” state law allows them to stay on the payroll until their successors are named. Partsch adds the two are “helping with the transition.”

(Updated 4:20 p.m.)

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday morning at 7:40, KLIN in Lincoln every Tuesday morning at 7:35 and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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