State Auditor Mike Foley says State government is spending over one-million dollars in government funds each year buying advertising on the Husker Sports Network and receiving hundreds of tickets to Husker games and other events in addition to the advertising purchased. Foley says he was contacted by the Nebraska Corn Board, who buys that advertising, for his opinion on what to do with the tickets.
“Then the Corn Board started to negotiate another contract for more advertising and they were offered more tickets and even a travel package to go out to the Washington State game later this year. They contacted my office and asked what do you think about all of this. We started digging into it and found out about 10 state agencies have contracts to buy advertising on the Husker Sports Network. Nothing wrong with buying advertising for legitimate purposes but when you buy those advertising contracts, you ought to be getting just advertising not personal gifts that you can use to take your kids and grandkids off to the ballgame. We think that is inappropriate and we think the state officials should stop doing it.”
Many times when a customer purchases advertising, there are certain “perks” that come with the deal. Foley says that is fine for the private sector but not for a government entity.
“I agree that may be common practice in the private sector when they buy advertising they receive something, a meal ticket or a sports ticket, a little gratuity for having purchased a big contract but when you are dealing with public dollars and it is public employees and they are spending our money to buy goods and services they should not receive personal gifts. There are certain state statutes that says government employees can not use their positions for personal financial gain and there are strict regulations with agencies that says when you buy those contracts, you buy what you are supposed to buy for the agency and not get something for yourself.”
Foley says if those tickets are part of the advertising package, there are other options that can be done with them besides being used by state employees.
“That then becomes public property. State property and ought to be treated accordingly. For example, the Game and Parks Commission signed an advertising contract and they got some tickets, they made them available to the public with a contest on their website. I don’t have a problem with that. Or the state lottery received some tickets but they made them available to the public who anybody who bought lottery tickets had a chance to win some Husker tickets as well and that is fine. But, when state employees start taking those tickets to the games and going personally and taking their kids and their grandkids and mother-in-law, that isn’t appropriate, conduct.”
Foley hopes his letter to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission helps clear things up as to what to do with these tickets in the future.
“I’m hoping by calling public attention to this and just showing who is getting those tickets and how they are being used will give people a certain sense of sensitivity on how people should be treating these things in the future and that we get it stopped and cleaned up.”