A state auditor’s report raises concerns about management of the Nebraska Brand Committee. The 53-page report accuses committee executive director Shawn Harvey of using a state vehicle for personal trips, approving the sale of livestock without proof of ownership by a man with a criminal record and possibly altering an employee’s disciplinary form.
Rick Bickford worked for the brand committee for nearly 39 years as a criminal investigator supervisor and a livestock inspector. Bickford says there’s a lot of problems with how the committee is run, especially for what he calls inconsistent leadership.
“I found that I was not being told the truth all the time,” Bickford says. “I’d be told something and then I was accused of, ‘I didn’t say it that way’ or ‘You took it wrong.’ Miscommunication. I think they’re going to have to take a good hard look at the corruption involved, maybe clean house.”
Bickford took early retirement this year and says he believes Harvey spent a lot of time covering his tracks. He says Harvey offered several different stories about a state-paid trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
“There’s at least three different versions and the truth ain’t out yet,” Bickford says. “He’s a girls’ basketball coach and that was the same weekend in some little town in Wyoming near Cheyenne. He tried to cover it up with having a meeting with the Wyoming officials. The auditors called the officials, in fact, one of them they called three times and there was no meeting.”
Assistant state brand committee director Paul Beaver has resigned as a result of the issues brought out by the auditor’s report. A committee member has also resigned. The brand committee’s next meeting is August 8th in North Platte where the auditor’s report will be reviewed.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton