LINCOLN, Nebraska -- Sen. Mark Christensen introduced legislation Thursday morning to change the Nebraska law that forced two McCook City Councilman to forfeit their seats earlier this week. LB 786 seeks to modify section 19-613 of the Revised Statutes of Nebraska, which addresses forfeiture of office for council members, in a manner that will replace the reference "convicted of a crime" with "convicted of a felony or of any public offense involving the violation of the oath of office of such member."
McCook Mayor Dennis Berry said he has been in contact with the League of Nebraska Municipalities and Sen. Christensen throughout the holiday break, in an effort to get the statute changed as soon as possible.
The McCook City Council declared seats previously occupied by councilmen Aaron Kircher and Shane Hilker as vacant, Tuesday evening, during their regular meeting. The vacancies were declared at the advisement of a legal opinion purchased from Howard Olsen of Simmons Olsen Law Firm in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Olsen's analysis of the state statute placed city councilors in the awkward position of being concerned with losing their elected positions, upon being convicted of any act that requires "punishment by public authority." According to Olsen this would include traffic offenses and raised concerns from councilors that it would also encompass such infractions as zoning ordinance violations.
Hilker was convicted in May of harboring a potentially vicious dog and Kircher was convicted in November of disturbing the peace.
Representatives from the League of Nebraska Municipalities explained to Berry that Sen. Christensen decided to introduce the simple bill to take care of the immediate problem and then look at the broader issue through an interim study after the session is over.
"Hopefully we will get this changed soon," said Berry.