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MECA board member’s residency challenged

MECA board member’s residency challenged

UPDATE, 9/13: Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale is now investigating Gutierrez Mora. 

UPDATE, 9/11: Most of the City Council appears to be supportive of Festersen’s plan. 

UPDATE, 9/10: City Council President Pete Festersen wants the city to clarify the qualifications for MECA board members.

Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority board member Jamie Gutierrez Mora doesn’t meet the requirements to serve on the board — at least according to Omaha’s city attorney.

In an opinion issued late last week, City Attorney Paul Kratz said Gutierrez Mora does not live in Douglas County and is not a “resident elector,” though she is registered to vote in Douglas County. Gutierrez Mora owns a home in Bellevue, but has listed a South Omaha rental property owned by her husband as her home. 

Now, the mayor and City Council could vote to remove Gutierrez Mora from the board. The MECA board could also act independently on the matter.

By September 9, 2013 Comments Read More
Budget season is almost over

Budget season is almost over

By September 6, 2013 Comments Read More
Stothert reviewing McDonnell’s plans

Stothert reviewing McDonnell’s plans

In case you missed it, (or are now thoroughly confused about what’s going on,) here’s the latest in the ongoing squabble between Mayor Jean Stothert and Fire Chief Mike McDonnell…

Wednesday, Stothert, just back from a trip to Chicago to discuss the city’s bond rating, said she hadn’t had time to review three proposals offered up by McDonnell over the weekend.

The mayor said McDonnell was looking to be reimbursed for tuition he paid for graduate school classes, among other additions to an original agreement. McDonnell, meanwhile, said he’s willing to go with a plan that’s more or less identical to the tentative agreement signed next week.

Stothert said it could be the end of the week before she’s ready to offer a final opinion on McDonnell’s three plans.

By September 5, 2013 Comments Read More
McDonnell under investigation, deal breaks down

McDonnell under investigation, deal breaks down

photo (2)

UPDATE, 9/4: Fire Chief Mike McDonnell tried to get several revisions to his deal with Mayor Jean Stothert last week, before it fell apart.

Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office released documents that it said contained McDonnell’s demands: reimburse his tuition, assure that rigs won’t be temporarily taken out of service and clarify something the mayor said.

UPDATE, 8/30:  The tentative retirement deal between Omaha Fire Chief Mike McDonnell and Mayor Jean Stothert is off — and Stothert’s office is now investigating McDonnell’s employment.

The Mayor’s Office just told us it was unable to come to an agreement with McDonnell on a final deal. In a statement, Stothert said McDonnell “demanded” language be inserted into the pair’s tentative agreement.

The preliminary deal had McDonnell stepping down and receiving the city’s largest-ever pension. Stothert, meanwhile, would be blocked from making significant cuts to the Fire Department over the next year.

“I am disappointed in Mr. McDonnell’s unwillingness to stay within the parameters of our Memo of Understanding,” Stothert said.

***

Fire Chief Mike McDonnell is officially out of a job.

The chief and Mayor Jean Stothert signed off on a tentative deal Monday that has McDonnell stepping down — he’ll be on paid leave for the time being — and the mayor agreeing to hold off on layoffs or pulling rigs from service.

McDonnell will have to turn in his city-issued phone and equipment by Tuesday morning. He’ll be replaced for now by Battalion Chief Bernard Kanger, who has been with the city since 1991.

Highlights of the deal:

By August 26, 2013 Comments Read More
Festersen won’t run for Congress

Festersen won’t run for Congress

City Council President Festersen, the father of two young children, has decided the timing of a congressional campaign against against Republican Rep. Lee Terry wasn’t right for his family.

Robynn Tysver reports the District 1 council representative was heavily recruited by national Democrats, who believed the moderate, pro-business councilman had the credentials to win in the Omaha-based congressional district, the state’s only swing district.

“At this point in time, however, I’ve determined I can have a greater impact on my community by staying focused on being a father, a business owner, and president of the Omaha City Council,” Festersen said.

 

By August 26, 2013 Comments Read More
Rate this council member’s piano skills

Rate this council member’s piano skills

This one comes to us from Chris Burbach, public engagement editor for The World-Herald. It’s City Council President Pete Festersen playing a piano as part of the  ”Play Me, I’m Yours” public art project.

By August 23, 2013 Comments Read More
Where does this MECA board member live?

Where does this MECA board member live?

The newest member of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority board faces questions over whether her Bellevue home disqualifies her to serve with the group, which runs Omaha’s marquee arena and baseball stadium.

Jamie Gutierrez Mora, owner and president of Midwest Maintenance Co., was appointed by the Omaha City Council in March. Midwest Maintenance Co. provides cleaning services for the CenturyLink Center, the Omaha Civic Auditorium and TD Ameritrade Park.

Gutierrez Mora is a registered voter in Douglas County, but has not voted there, according to county election records. She owns a home in Belle­vue with a tax value of roughly $600,000. That is not the address listed on the résumé that Gutierrez Mora gave the city upon her appointment.

Voters who have previously registered in Nebraska can register in a different county without having to provide proof of address, said Valerie Stoj, spokeswoman for the Douglas County Election Commission.

But applicants must sign an oath that “I live in the State of Nebraska at the address provided in this application.” The oath says applicants who knowingly provide false information are guilty of election falsification, a felony.

MECA paid Midwest Maintenance Co. some $3.8 million from its 2009 through its 2011 fiscal years, according to federal tax forms. Gutierrez Mora has owned the company since 1997.

By August 23, 2013 Comments Read More
Judge rules against fire union

Judge rules against fire union

The fire union’s attempt to get a court to stop to Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposed budget cuts is on hold — at least for now.

District Judge James Gleason has rejected the union’s request for a court order that would block the mayor’s $90.6 million budget plan. The union had argued last month that proposed reductions would violate the labor contract and put firefighters at risk.

In his ruling, Gleason wrote that the lawsuit was premature, because the City Council has not yet finalized a budget.  He noted that “the proposal of a budget does not create a budget, and this court determines that this case is not ripe for decision until a budget has been approved by the City Council of the City of Omaha.”

The union, meanwhile, says it plans to be back in court if Stothert’s budget is approved.

Gleason’s ruling:


By August 21, 2013 Comments Read More
Civilian review board could be in city’s future

Civilian review board could be in city’s future

Mayor Jean Stothert says she will propose a form of civilian oversight for the Omaha Police Department. Possibly by the end of this summer.

Stothert told The World-Herald her administration is working to suggest an ordinance to create some sort of citizen review board, a concept she supported during her mayoral campaign.

That’s news to the city’s police union head.

“Don’t rush to implement something, which ultimately doesn’t work or backfires,” said Sgt. John Wells, the union president. “Because that just tends to cause more problems.”

Police oversight was a bit of a wedge issue during the mayoral election. Stothert and former Mayor Jim Suttle differed on whether to hire a police auditor or instate the community-based form of oversight supported by Stothert.

Stothert has said she believes people would have more trust in the Police Department if they were represented by a citizens board that could review police regulations or disputed incidents.

“Community policing isn’t just a matter of getting your officers out in the community, driving by once or twice a day in a cruiser,” she said. “True community policing is when the community takes part in developing the policy.”

By August 21, 2013 Comments Read More
Budget hearing highlights: fire, sustainability

Budget hearing highlights: fire, sustainability

With two weeks to go before the council votes on Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposed budget, city officials and fire union leaders have revived discussions about the city’s fire contract.

Talk about the Fire Department’s budget took center stage at Tuesday evening’s public hearing, where President Steve LeClair said the layoffs and other cuts forced by the mayor’s $90.6 million budget should be a concern to Omahans. Fire Chief Mike McDonnell has recently told council members he thinks cuts could be avoiding by changing the contract.

Meanwhile, council members heard feedback Tuesday on separate proposed change: the end of the city’s office of sustainable development. 

By August 14, 2013 Comments Read More