October 25, 2014

Kenney defends controversial program; denies governor knowledge

State Corrections Director Mike Kenney

State Corrections Director Mike Kenney

State Corrections Director Mike Kenney defends his controversial program to allow prison inmates released prematurely to serve out the rest of their sentences at home.

Kenney objects to state senators on a special legislative committee calling his temporary alternative placement program illegal, insisting it was the best alternative for a handful of inmates who had been living peacefully in their communities.

“I thought this was the best thing I could do as director is to not bring them back and disrupt that,” Kenney tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “So, I looked at that statute and I believe to this day I have authority to do this.”

Kenney has written a letter to the committee, outlining the steps that led him to create the program. It covered five of the 20 former inmates who had been mistakenly released early from prison and had six months of their sentences left. The five had from 12 to 64 days left on their sentences.

Kenney writes he believes state statutes provided the latitude he needed to create the program, which required the five to wear electronic monitoring equipment and report twice weekly to parole officers.

Sen. Steve Lathrop, chairman of the committee investigating the prison sentence miscalculations, contends Kenney acted illegally in creating the program.

Kenney says, in wake of accusation, he should have sought legal advice before going ahead with the program.

“Had I known at the time that I would be called a lawbreaker and it would have come to this, I certainly would have deferred to the Attorney General, asked for a specific opinion from him about the legality of doing it and so I certainly regret not doing that.”

Kenney disputes hand written notes by a former attorney at the Department of Correctional Services, George Green, that listed Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning among those attending a meeting in which he created the alternative placement program. Kenney says Heineman and Bruning attended a meeting called to discuss how to handle about 40 prisoners who had been mistakenly released early.

“I did not announce, in fact I didn’t even have the idea for this temporary release program for several weeks after that,” Kenney says. “So, no, the Governor and Attorney General had no idea that I was developing this specific, temporary alternative placement plan.”

PDF of Kenney letter to committee

TransCanada denies Energy East is alternative to Keystone XL

A TransCanada executive denies an ambitious new project by the company is being undertaken as an alternative to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Approval of Keystone XL has been delayed for years. TransCanada now awaits a decision on its route through Nebraska from the state Supreme Court.

Vice President for the Keystone Pipeline Project, Corey Goulet, says the proposed 3,000 mile oil pipeline, dubbed Energy East, that would span Canada is not a replacement for Keystone XL.

“We’ve received commitments from different customers to ship on each of these pipelines,” Goulet tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Some have suggested that TransCanada proposed the cross-Canadian pipeline after being rebuffed for years by the United States in building the northern portion of Keystone XL.

Goulet says if there is an alternative to transporting oil through Keystone XL, Energy East isn’t it.

“Well, certainly, we’ve seen one of the alternatives to Keystone and that’s that our customers, the oil producers, are shipping more crude by rail,” according to Goulet. “That’s increased dramatically, both in Canada as well in the U.S., the last couple of years as everyone knows.”

Goulet says oil will be shipped, one way or another; both crude from oil sands in western Canada and from the Bakken oil fields in the Dakotas. He says the most efficient, least disruptive, and most environmentally friendly way to ship it is through pipelines.

And Goulet claims the oil sands of western Canada won’t go away even if Keystone XL never receives approval.

“Certainly that oil will be produced and the producers will continue to develop their projects that they have for the oil sands and they will find a way to get that product to market.”

 

 

Fate of health care law major issue in US Senate campaign (AUDIO)

Democrat Dave Domina

Democrat Dave Domina

Many issues define the United States Senate race, but one issue discloses deep division between the two political party candidates.

The federal health insurance law, called Obamacare by most, officially the Affordable Care Act, is an issue in many Senate races across the country.

Its fate is front and center in Nebraska.

Democrat Dave Domina rejects any suggestion that it will be repealed.

“Oh no, absolutely can’t be repealed,” Domina tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And the problems I have with it are simply the kinds of things you would expect to have to repair in a statute this big.”

Domina says anyone would expect modifications to be made to a statute as large as the Affordable Care Act. One change Domina advocates is repealing the section that forces Americans to get rid of their current health insurance policies in order to buy policies that conform to the ACA.

Republican Ben Sasse

Republican Ben Sasse

Republican Ben Sasse has built much of his campaign on criticism of the law and an insistence that it must be repealed.

Sasse tells Nebraska Radio Network he wants to be precise in his answer about whether the ACA can be repealed.

“We’re not going to see Obamacare repealed before the next presidential election, but by the end of that presidential election in 2016, the country will be heading in one of two ways: toward actual health care reform or toward a more European-style, centralized health care system,” Sasse tells us.

Sasse says Domina wants more Washington power while he wants more patient, doctor, and nurse power.

Independents Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson are also running for Senate.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

No need for subpoena, Gov. Heineman to testify willingly (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman answers questions at a briefing with reporters

Gov. Dave Heineman answers questions at a briefing with reporters

Gov. Dave Heineman said today he will testify before the special legislative committee investigating the prison sentence miscalculation scandal.

The governor’s remarks came hours after the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigating Committee voted unanimously to subpoena the governor to testify before the committee October 29th.

The special legislative committee first formed to investigate why Nikko Jenkins was released from prison rather than civilly committed. Jenkins killed four in Omaha upon his released last year.

It since has followed up reports first published by the Omaha World-Herald that Corrections officials released hundreds of inmates prematurely, because it ignored two state Supreme Court rulings.

During a meeting with reporters at his Capitol office, Gov. Heineman denied he attended a meeting in which Corrections Director Mike Kenney created a program to allow eight inmates released early to serve the remainder of their sentences at home rather than behind bars. A July 31st memo by former Corrections General Counsel George Green indicates the governor was at the meeting when Kenney proposed the alternative sentencing program.

“No, I’ve never been in a meeting regarding that and Director Kenney indicated this was something he created, he invented,” Heineman told reporters.

The Corrections Director pushed forward with the program, though attorneys with the department questioned its legality.

Heineman said he never considered invoking executive privilege against the subpoena issued by the legislative committee. He suggested he might request the committee withdraw the subpoena and allow him to come to the hearing voluntarily.

“But I’m going to be there one way or another on October 29th, because I look forward to these discussions that we need to have on these issues,” Heineman said.

Heineman also rejects suggestions he pushed for Corrections to release prisoners early to ease prison overcrowding.

“Absolutely not,” Heineman said. “I’ve always said they’re two separate issues. The bad guys need to be in prison no matter what.”

The Department of Correctional Services ignored two state Supreme Court rulings, releasing 200 inmates early and setting early release dates for 550 others. The governor’s office and Corrections officials reported 306 inmates were released prematurely by the department. Many inmates received credit for time served in the community without incident.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Legislative committee to subpoena Gov. Heineman in prison probe

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

A special legislative committee looking into the miscalculation of prison sentences has voted to subpoena Gov. Dave Heineman to testify before the committee October 29th.

The committee is following up reports first published by the Omaha World-Herald that reveal prison officials miscalculated the sentences of hundreds of prison inmates, leading to their premature release from incarceration. The World-Herald reported the Department of Correctional Services ignored two state Supreme Court rulings, releasing 200 inmates early and setting early release dates for 550 others.

Gov. Heineman and Corrections officials reported 306 inmates were released prematurely by the department. Many inmates received credit for time served in the community without incident.

The investigation by the legislature took a turn Friday when state Corrections Director Mike Kenney acknowledged he allowed eight prisoners to remain outside prison walls though his legal staff warned against the action.

Gov. Heineman released a written statement though his office.

“I look forward to the opportunity to answer any questions and clear up any miscommunications. The Department of Correctional Services, specifically former legal counsel George Green, made a series of significant mistakes and created a huge mess. Since June, Attorney General Bruning and I have been working diligently and thoughtfully with the new leadership at the Department to fix the problems.”