State Tourism Director Kathy McKillip has been fired by the Nebraska Tourism Commission after a state audit sharply criticized the commission’s spending habits under her leadership.
The commission voted 8-0 Thursday to dismiss McKillip after a closed-door meeting that lasted a little less than an hour. Deputy Director Heather Hogue has been appointed temporary director while the commission looks first for an interim director and then for a permanent replacement for McKillip.
The state audit criticized the commission for overspending its budget by $4.4 million since it became independent in 2012. Other questionable spending disclosed in the audit includes paying a speaker $44,000 to headline a tourism convention in Kearney and paying other speakers $9,000. The commission also paid $18,000 to move a tourism employee from Sidney to Kearney.
McKillip did not attend the meeting. She had been paid an annual salary of $86,000.
Three members of the public addressed the commission during a public hearing on the audit findings. They asked how the commission could have not known of the questionable spending.
McKillip had been suspended with pay since May 13th as the commission underwent an internal investigation of the audit’s findings.
Commission chairman John Chapo defends the reputation of the independent body in wake of the audit’s findings.
“The Nebraska Tourism Commission has accomplished much since its young birth four years ago,” Chapo tells reporters. “We’ve accomplished much. We’ve got a great state. We’re going to keep doing it better.”
Can the commission restore public confidence?
“We are working aggressively to address (the issues disclosed in the audit) and obviously confidence-building would be a part of that.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]
AUDIO: Nebraska Tourism Commission chairman John Chapo makes statement. [:55]