Nebraska Legislators talk about harassment, assault in special personnel panel

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 5:01 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2022 at 5:16 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Three state senators met Tuesday morning for the first time as part of a special personnel panel.

They will hire an outside law firm to also investigate former State Sen. Mike Groene’s computer and who else had knowledge or saw the photos and, if so, why didn’t they act.

The panel will also recommend ways to improve the legislature’s policies when it comes to workplace harassment.

“It is important for their work to be transparent. And I’ve asked the panel to prepare a report that can be shared with the public and the body,” said State Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango.

After a few minutes of legislative housekeeping, the women who make up 27% of the Nebraska Legislature shared their personal stories of being harassed and marginalized in the workplace.

“I did a call of the house to say to the men in this body, you need to listen. The courage of one woman to go to the press is the only reason I think Mike Groene faced consequences at all,” said State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha.

“When something like this happens to you, it happened to me years ago, and what happens is your basic trust level of the world is disrupted,” said State Sen. Wendy DeBoer of Bennington.

Some lawmakers questioned how serious their colleagues are when it comes to change and making the arena a safe place for those who feel wronged.

After all, they’ve heard it all before.

“We can’t take a joke. That’s not it. This is more than a joke,” said State Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks of Lincoln.

The name “Groene” has been replaced by a blank brass market. Instead of 49 senators, there are 48.

“My concern is Senator Groene has run away from this. I don’t think he needed to resign. I think he is missing an opportunity to make amends, to self-reflect, and play a leadership role in improving this institution,” said Hunt.

State patrol investigators will pass along its findings to the attorney general. The same for the law firm, if it uncovers potential criminal activity.

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