State Sen. Groene officially resigns; Nebraska lawmakers call for outside investigation

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 6:25 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - North Platte State Sen. Mike Groene submitted a one-line letter to the governor Monday.

The Republican officially resigning from office, he’ll no longer be a senator by midnight.

There are new calls for a more formal investigation into the handling of a harassment case at the state capitol that led to a senator’s registration.

One lawmaker worries politics played more of a role in this than the victim’s privacy.

The senior woman of the legislature, State Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks, said it’s her responsibility to share her concerns about a colleague and the allegations from a legislative aide.

Pansing-Brooks said workplace harassment is too serious and prevalent to allow it to be governed by politics. She’s curious how workplace harassment claims are supposed to be secret, only for it to come out in the media.

The Lincoln senator wants an outside formal investigation and an interim study to examine the legislature’s own policies.

“I feel it is my responsibility as the senior woman in the Legislature and as a member of the Executive Board to share my concerns about the effectiveness of the processes in place regarding workplace harassment in the Legislature.

The Legislature needs to look at next steps, which at a minimum should include an outside formal investigation and an interim study to examine human resources, using an outside consultant.

I find it disturbing that as a member of the Executive Board, I found out about this situation first through hearsay and rumor. When I approached key leaders, I was told workplace harassment claims cannot be discussed. Two days later, there were media reports. I understand the necessity for privacy during an investigation like this, that privacy was violated by others through disclosure to the media. Clearly, we need to ensure that privacy doesn’t mean that serious issues get swept under the rug and aren’t properly addressed unless leaked to the media. It is concerning that the timing of the resignation only came due to the media reports, despite the fact that some members of the Legislature apparently knew about this issue earlier.

Workplace harassment is too serious and prevalent to allow it to be governed by politics.”

Statement from Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks

Over the weekend, Omaha State Sen. Megan Hunt urged the attorney general, state patrol, and capitol security to investigate.

Kristina Kanecko, a longtime aide to Sen. Groene, tells 6 News she’s OK with being identified.

She told Omaha-based Nebraska Sunrise News that she found photos of herself on Sen. Groene’s computer, including close-ups of provocative body parts.

Groene told 6 News on Friday that he didn’t want to drag his wife and family through the fight it would take to defend himself – so he resigned.

That leaves his bills in the wind, unless another senator tells the speaker by Tuesday night he or she will pick them up.

Gov. Ricketts will appoint Groene’s replacement. When 6 News asked the governor about a timeline for appointment a senator to Dist. 42, a spokeswoman for his office said the governor recognizes the importance of having someone in that office quickly.

Read Sen. Groene’s resignation letter

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