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Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015

Lawyer to offer opinion, field questions

Friday, December 16, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska -- Howard Olsen of Simmons Olsen Law Firm in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, will present his opinion pertaining to the continued qualifications of McCook City Council members Aaron Kircher and Shane Hilker, Monday evening, 7:30 p.m., at Memorial Auditorium.

Olsen was retained by the city at the direction of council members Dennis Berry, Mike Gonzales and Jerry Calvin, after City Attorney Nate Schneider announced during a November meeting that a state statute had been brought to his attention, by an unidentified individual, that may require forfeiture of the two voter elected seats.

Schneider said at the time that the state statute was contrary to McCook city ordinance and added that he had contacted city attorneys for several other first class cities, none of which had any experience with the issue.

Schneider later said he was unable to obtain an opinion on the law from either the Attorney General's Office or the League of Municipalities and cited concerns with a perceived bias if he offered a final opinion on the matter.

Since taking office Councilman Shane Hilker was convicted by Schneider of a city ordinance violation for harboring a potentially vicious dog and Councilman Aaron Kircher was convicted by County Attorney Paul Wood of a misdemeanor offense for disturbing the peace.

During the Dec. 8 meeting Schneider said Olsen could help provide independent insight without putting city staff "or myself in a position, of making a determination, in respect to individuals that basically have the authority to hire or fire us." A concern not raised when Schneider served as the prosecuting attorney and convicted Hilker of the city ordinance violation.

Schneider also commented during the meeting that he could not confirm reports of a stated opinion from the Attorney General's Office, referencing a Dec. 6 Gazette article in which Shannon Kingery, Director of Communications for Nebraska Attorney General's office, told the Gazette that the statute Schneider was reluctant to offer an opinion on, "only deals with state crimes." Kingery added that the statute wouldn't refer to city ordinance violations, such as the case with Councilman Hilker.

Kingery followed up with the Gazette after the initial story ran and voiced concerns pertaining to appearing to offer legal advice on the matter. Kingery said it was a local matter and needed to be resolved on a local level.

The three active councilors then voted unanimously on Dec. 8 to hire Olsen, a Scottsbluff attorney, to aid in resolving the matter. After offering his opinion, Monday evening, Olsen will field questions pertaining to the qualifications of the council members and how the council should proceed on the matter.

Other items on the consent and regular agenda:

* A claim for damages against the city from Vicky Drake, Robert Edwards and Tamara McAdams will be received and instructed to be submitted to the city's insurance carrier for review and appropriate action. The claim cites $1,000 to $1,500 in damage to personal property at 14011⁄2 W. Third Street, that was caused by 8 to 10 inches of black waste water that their plumber believes to be a result of a negative water flow from a city line.

* Authorization of an agreement with Miller & Associates Consulting Engineers for the design of the failed 16" transmission main and water treatment plant waste stream lagoon facility will be considered. Both projects were approved previously for the current budget and will utilize the State Revolving Fund program, which allows for an 80 percent loan and a 20 percent grant.

* MO Dough LLC has requested a special liquor license to serve alcohol at the Nebraska Farmers & Ranchers Convention at the Chief Motel on Jan. 27 and 28.

* Approval for the automatic renewal of all current retail liquor licenses in the City of McCook for the year 2012 will be considered.

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