The chairwoman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee is looking into whether a hearing to examine actions in the past two years of the Nebraska State Patrol and its administration "is necessary and appropriate."

Omaha Sen. Burke Harr and Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus asked Judiciary Chairwoman Laura Ebke on Thursday to schedule a hearing, after Attorney General Doug Peterson chose not to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the actions that led to the firing of Superintendent Brad Rice. 

Harr subsequently sent letters to several county attorneys about appointing special attorneys in their jurisdictions to investigate actions taken by officers and administrators of the patrol there. 

District Judge Travis O'Gorman appointed Attorney Joe Stecher on Oct. 6 to investigate the actions that occurred in Sheridan County. Attorneys for Lancaster, Buffalo and Sioux counties declined to conduct further investigations, Harr and Schumacher said in their letter. 

The FBI has declined say whether it is investigating the actions, although Gov. Pete Ricketts said he turned over information to that agency. None of the six suspended patrol employees, nor any of the county attorneys involved, have been questioned by the FBI, Harr said.

The patrol employees have been on paid administrative leave more than 100 days, and "there seems to be no resolution in sight.

"All of the circumstances around these incidents are murky at best," the senators said. 

Harr has been critical of Ricketts, because in the middle of conducting a review of the patrol, he fired Rice. Since then, Harr has continued to ask for more information because Ricketts nor chief Human Resources Officer Jason Jackson have identified the "substantiated concerns" they had, nor any corrective measures. 

Because of that, the "impeccability of the State Patrol now necessarily falls upon the Legislature to preserve," the letter from the senators said. 

Ebke said because of widely reported and troubling facts about the incidents within the patrol, the concerns expressed by Harr and Schumacher, and Peterson's conclusion that his office lacks legal authority to pursue the matter, the Legislature may need to pursue more fully its responsibility to oversee and hold state agencies accountable. 

She will continue to talk to members of the Judiciary Committee about whether a hearing is necessary, she said. 

"My office has been and will continue to monitor the concerning situation surrounding the ongoing investigation into certain policies, practices and procedures of the Nebraska State Patrol," Ebke said. 

Ricketts hired Col. John Bolduc to replace Rice, and he was sworn in Monday. His annual salary is $150,000, which is $60,000 more than Rice made. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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