The former CEO of East Central District Health Department and Good Neighbor Community Health Center accused in March of fraudulently using company dollars isn't facing any criminal charges in Platte County.
“The Platte County Attorney’s Office received the investigative report from the Columbus Police Department which revealed non-criminal reasons and/or explanations for the claims in question; the police investigator concluding that “the case was unfounded” as a criminal matter,” Platte County Attorney Carl Hart Jr. said in an emailed statement to The Telegram. "... The matter remains closed at this time."
A series of events ultimately led to that determination being made. On March 6, Hart said his office received a preliminary copy of State Auditor Charlie Janssen’s report detailing several concerns over several claims submitted by then CEO William McInnis to the department’s board of directors for payment during a time frame spanning from July 2017 - September 2018. McInnis, who was hired in November 2017, through his position served residents in Platte, Colfax, Boone and Nance counties.
McInnis was accused of fraudulently spending company money on hotel room expenses, gas purchases and various meal outings, as previously reported by The Telegram. In addition to the direct fraud accusation made by Janssen’s office, the audit also alleged a lack of supporting documentation in several situations relating to certain moving expenses, lodging expenses, car rentals, meal expenses and car mileage.
An investigation by Columbus Police started in early March when Janssen’s findings were forwarded to the department by Hart on March 7 with a request to complete an investigation to identify any criminal activity relating to the concerns listed within the state auditor’s report.
Hart’s office ultimately deemed the matter to lack merit as a criminal case, he wrote. Hart denied the Telegram's request to view the investigative report.
Mary Avery, special audits and finance manager for the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts, said that generally when a county attorney makes a determination that’s where the case really jump-starts or dies.
"There’s nothing we can do,” she said of the conclusion made by Hart. “We are the fact-finders and then it’s up to them to do any prosecution … We do our job and then refer it to local attorneys and the (state) attorney general because if the attorney general wants to pursue something the county attorney or city attorney doesn’t, they can step in.”
Generally, she said that would only happen if there was a conflict of interest with the city or county attorney handling the case, in which he or she would recuse themselves in an effort to remain impartial.
“He (clearly) just didn’t feel there was enough evidence to pursue it at the taxpayers’ expense,” Avery added.
District 1 Platte County Board of Supervisor Fred Liss, who acts as a liaison between the county and health department, confirmed on Wednesday that the vacant CEO position was recently filled. The name of the person hired for that position was not released by the health department to The Telegram on Wednesday.
In the wake of Janssen’s report being released, McInnis was placed on paid leave before resigning on March 12. At that time, East Central Board of Directors President Wendy Ramaekers said that the organization was preparing to complete its own internal review and audit through its own independent auditing agency.
Ramaekers on Wednesday was unavailable for comment.
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.