A tale of two counties

2012-09-15T06:00:00Z A tale of two countiesBy Chris Dunker/Daily Sun news editor Beatrice Daily Sun
September 15, 2012 6:00 am  • 

For the record, today marks 14 weeks and five days since I filed a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act to Gage County.

All I wanted was access to some emails I believed were exchanged between county supervisors and former Gage County medical director Dr. Don Rice.

It’s been 10 weeks and three days since the Nebraska Attorney General’s office said the public has the right to know what’s in those emails and seven weeks and three days since Rice’s resignation became official.

Finally, it’s been about three weeks since the Gage County Attorney’s Office said we could have the emails, if and only if, we paid $210 in fees and services to the county.

Now, compare that with our friends one county north.

Lancaster County, as I’m sure most of our readers are aware, is nearly identical in geographical size to Gage County, but nearly 13 times as big in population.

Their county board -- all five members -- have been overseeing the construction of a new jail facility that behind schedule.

According to my colleague Jordan Pascale, who covers Lancaster County government for the Lincoln Journal Star, rumors and speculation about why the jail hasn’t yet opened have become commonplace in and around Lincoln.

“County officials have said the main problem is wire installation that is taking longer than expected. Sampson Construction is set to turn over the jail, at Southwest 40th and West O streets, to the county in October,” Pascale wrote in his weekly column.

The Journal Star filed a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act for emails regarding the jail project between the Lancaster County Commissioners and other public officials to find out if there was something the government wasn’t saying.

Pascale and I communicated through Twitter on Wednesday and I asked him about his investigation into the matter.

What he told me illustrates a major difference in politicians between our respective counties.

Get this: Lancaster County returned Pascale’s FOIA request in about 10 days. All 80 emails that applied to what he wanted.

And he didn’t even have to pay for them. Since they were electronic records, Lancaster County managed to send them to the Journal Star electronically.

What a novel idea! In this day and age...

All told, turns out there was no smoking gun into why the jail is behind schedule. Contractors are having problems installing internet, data, security and other wiring as well as some problems with late and improperly installed conduits.

While Pascale was writing his column to dispel some of the rumors, he did state that it’s always good to check into a perceived problem.

Gage County supervisors have told me that Rice simply lost support on the board or felt that he lost support on the board which led to his resignation.

I believe that. I really do, especially after seeing him in action a few years ago.

If the reason is something that trivial though, why make such a fight of it?

Reach Chris Dunker at cdunker@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisDunkerDS.

Copyright 2015 Beatrice Daily Sun. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. Galen
    Report Abuse
    Galen - September 16, 2012 12:49 am
    Answer: It is, as you imply, a tale of two counties. And oh how different they can be! Not a lot of activism here when a whiff of nepotism is in the air, or good-old-boy cover-up mode is under way. People here are too busy making an honest living to pounce on rats.
  2. reb729
    Report Abuse
    reb729 - September 15, 2012 6:28 pm
    That is a very good question....does the county supervisor position have pay and benefits so good the board is afraid of being re-elected? Or do they feel they are so superior to the rest of us, we just couldn't, or wouldn't understand? C'mon board, either stand your ground on legal and legitimate principles and openness, or all of you will be removed as election times roll around.
  3. sharp4gagecounty
    Report Abuse
    sharp4gagecounty - September 15, 2012 5:27 pm
    Nebraska statute 84-1408 is clear: "It is hereby declared to be the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret."

    Also, state statute 84-712 is clear citizens may request to examine public records (http://uniweb.legislature.ne.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=84-712). Please read it for yourself.

    If elected as county supervisor, I will comply with law and be open & honest with the public. (http://sharp4gagecounty-com.webs.com).
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