Andy Stebbing

Andy Stebbing

Most of Lancaster County Treasurer Andy Stebbing’s $3,400 in mileage expense reimbursements for the past three years lack proper documentation, according to a report by the state Auditor’s Office.

The issues include providing no reason for trips, no date for trips, potentially incorrect mileage and trips taken on legal holidays, said the report, which was released Wednesday.

Stebbing acknowledged he has never provided detail on his mileage requests. He has been filling out the mileage form the same haphazard way since shortly after he took office in 2011, and no one told him he needed to provide more information. 

"I just figured it was being approved by the county clerk and the County Board," he said. 

"It (the report) should have been much more detailed, but that was the way I was trained." 

In a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, Stebbing said he asked for reimbursement for part of the miles he drove each day for work after his deputy told him there was money in the budget to cover a portion of his mileage expenses.  

Stebbing said he generally drove a loop to all three treasurer offices in the city, driving about  75 miles daily. But he requested reimbursement for just a fraction of that. 

Stebbing said he was unaware of a 2014 Lancaster County Board resolution requiring substantiated cost records for expenses. 

"In hindsight, I wish I would have been much more detailed," said Stebbing. But, he said, he just went out and did his job and didn't spend time keeping detailed information. 

The state auditor’s office examined 568 days of mileage records. Only four of those days included the purpose of the trip, according to the report.

“In most cases the mileage reimbursed appeared to be questionable, unreasonable or not supported based on the locations of travel stated on the form,” according to the report.

Given the lack of documentation, the "subsequent payments by the county do not appear to have been made in accordance with either state law or the board’s own reimbursement policy," the report said.

Stebbing has also been accused in recent months of selling vehicles as a business without a dealer's license, falsifying bills of sale and filing fraudulent state income taxes. He pleaded not guilty to five felony counts regarding his sale of vehicles.

The newly released auditor's report also criticized the County Board for failing to monitor the expense documents.

Board Chairman Todd Wiltgen renewed his call Wednesday for Stebbing to step down.

"I reviewed the letter from the auditor’s office and stand by my earlier statements. The taxpayers and employees of Lancaster County deserve better than Andy Stebbing. He has failed to faithfully perform the duties of County Treasurer on more than one occasion. An honorable man would have resigned by now," he said.

Wiltgen, a Republican like Stebbing, said his comments are his own and not the official stance of the board, which will discuss the auditor's report at Thursday's meeting.

Stebbing told the auditors that since his election in 2011 no one had requested additional documentation for his mileage reimbursement claims.

The claim forms Stebbing filled out included space to document the date, to and from locations, number of miles and purpose for the trip.  

Generally, Stebbing left blank the line for the purpose of the trip and scribbled a destination and sometimes a starting point in the to-from line.  

Traditionally, the board has not scrutinized expense documents for elected agency heads, such as the treasurer, sheriff, county clerk and assessor.

Since Stebbing’s potential expense record problems were discovered, commissioners have set up a system for monitoring those requests.

Now all elected official expense reports are reviewed by the County Board’s administrator and approved by the board.

In a prepared statement, the board apologized to its constituents and reaffirmed its commitment to protecting public dollars. 

"As stewards of Lancaster County taxpayer dollars, the Lancaster County Board is extremely concerned with the findings of the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts report regarding potentially unlawful reimbursements made to the Lancaster County Treasurer," the statement said.

"The board is now requiring more documentation in relation to mileage and travel costs for county business and has empowered staff to question and investigate claims that do not meet the County Board’s existing policy on reimbursement," the statement said. 

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The report recommends the County Board improve its oversight of expense reports from elected officials and suggests the board could seek reimbursement or even remove Stebbing from office if there is “verifiable proof” of intentional falsification of expense reimbursement request forms.

The auditor's report, on expenses from June 2014 through February 2017, raised these issues:

* 44 days (448 miles) contained no documentation to support the miles claimed. No destination was provided.

* 33 days (370 miles) were claimed for travel to automobile dealers or auto auctions without any indication the trips were for official county business.

Stebbing said he went to dealerships and to the auto auction to meet with dealers, who are among the treasurer's biggest customers.  

* 11 days (112 miles) in late August 2015 were for travel to Carpetland, apparently referring to a store at 4301 Industrial Ave. The place Stebbing left from was not provided and the mileage “inexplicably varied in distance from 6 to 14 miles.”

* Eight days (88 miles) were claimed on county holidays without adequate documentation to support the travel.

* The auditor’ office also checked whether Stebbing went through the parking lot gate on days when his mileage report indicated he traveled to or from the downtown office. On 18 of the 41 days in 2017 he claimed to drive to or from that office there was no record he used the gate — which requires an access card.

* The report noted Stebbing did not appear to accurately report mileage. For example, he claimed 465 miles over 45 days to go to his 46th and R streets office, but the distance varied from 3 to 16 miles. The reports don't indicate where he was coming from.

Mapquest shows the actual mileage from the treasurer's downtown office to the 46th Street office to be 3.4 miles one way; from the treasurer's West O Street office to 46th and R is 4.9 miles, according to the report.

Stebbing also claimed mileage of 3 to 20 miles for travel to the West O Street office (on 39 days for 366 miles) and claimed mileage of 6 to 12 miles for travel to the Capitol (for 12 days and 126 miles). 

“Based solely upon the information provided on the expense reimbursement forms, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether more than one trip was made to the identified location on the same day or the actual number of miles that should have been claimed for the aforementioned travel," the report said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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