The chairman of the Lancaster County Board filed a formal complaint against the county treasurer, accusing Andy Stebbing of using county employees to manage his political Facebook page.
In his complaint to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission on Tuesday, Todd Wiltgen also alleged Stebbing had a technician in his office spend work time on his campaign and personal business websites.
The employee told Ann Ames, the chief deputy administrator for the county commissioners, that he did “a significant amount of work” for Stebbing’s personal sites -- andystebbing.com and andyshealth.com -- according to emails Wiltgen included with his complaint.
“In retrospect, I see that at least some of the above work is probably a violation of County policy, which I regret since I consider myself an ethical person,” the staffer wrote to Ames. He has since resigned.
Stebbing called the employee’s allegations false and untrue.
“I am well aware of the numerous and many emails he’s sending to anyone that will listen. He served in my office for a very short time. He is no longer employed by us.”
Stebbing said the staffer volunteered to help with the personal sites, but was instructed to do it on his own time.
“I have no knowledge of him working on anything during work hours, including anything with the campaign. He was told never to work on anything during office hours.”
The treasurer’s Facebook page became an issue early last month, when Ames saw a post for a Stebbing campaign fundraiser on what she and others considered to be the treasurer’s official page. His staff managed the content, it disseminated treasurer’s office news releases and its contact information listed the county address and phone number.
Promoting a meet-and-greet fundraiser would be using a government resource for campaigning, and that would be against state law.
Ames suggested Stebbing remove the post, and he apologized and took down the entire page. But he also maintained it had been his political page and not the official county site. He has since resurrected the page with his campaign contact information.
But that’s a problem, too, Wiltgen said. People who assumed the page was the official treasurer’s site won’t know it’s returned as Stebbing’s political page.
“There’s still official content on there. He still looks like he’s communicating in his official capacity,” he said. “You can’t go back and undo what was done over the three years it was official; he used official resources, he used county staff time to manage content.”
Wiltgen has been calling for Stebbing’s resignation since August, when the treasurer was charged with five felony counts, including selling vehicles as a business without a dealer's license, falsifying bills of sale and filing fraudulent state income taxes.
Stebbing has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is running for re-election.
And last month, a state auditor’s report said most of the $3,400 in Stebbing’s mileage requests over a three-year period lacked documentation. Stebbing has since repaid the county.
It’s unclear when the Accountability and Disclosure Commission will act on Wiltgen’s complaint, because much of the process is confidential, said executive director Frank Daley. In fact, he could only confirm Wiltgen filed a complaint Tuesday, but he couldn’t say who it targeted.
But he could speak generally. His office first determines whether an allegation, if true, would be a violation of accountability and disclosure laws. An investigator pursues the case and prepares a report, and the nine-member commission determines whether there is probable cause.
Ultimately, the case could end up at a trial-like hearing, with the state and the accused presenting evidence, and a hearing officer making a recommendation to the commission.
“It’s not a quick process,” Daley said. “People ought to be thinking in terms of months, not days or weeks.”
Each accountability and disclosure violation can carry a fine of up to $2,000, Daley said.