Nebraska News

Nebraska pro-death penalty group collects 166K signatures
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — An organization campaigning to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty after lawmakers repealed it in May says it has collected more than enough signatures to place the issue before voters in 2016. Nebraskans for the Death Penalty announced Wednesday that it has gathered 166,692 signatures from all 93 of the state's counties. Nebraska is the first traditionally conservative state to repeal capital punishment since North Dakota in 1973. The group needed roughly 57,000 valid voter signatures to place the issue on the statewide general election ballot, and double that number to halt the death penalty repeal before the new law goes into effect on Sunday. The petitions go to the Nebraska secretary of state's office, which will forward them to counties to verify in a process that will take about 40 days.

Appeals court says Tyson Foods doesn't underpay workers
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal appeals court has decided that Tyson Foods doesn't have to pay workers at two of its Nebraska plants for the time they spend putting on and taking off safety gear and preparing for work. The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Wednesday that Tyson doesn't owe workers at its plants in Dakota City and Madison for that time. The appellate rulings will eliminate two lower court decisions ordering Tyson to pay more than $20 million. The workers who sued argued that Tyson should pay them for the roughly 30 minutes they spend putting on uniforms and safety gear, sanitizing equipment, sharpening knives and other duties. They said they're only paid for their time on the assembly line plus four minutes for all the pre- and post-production chores.

Sidney council accepts city manager's resignation
SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) — The council has accepted the resignation of the longtime Sidney city manager. The Sidney Sun-Telegraph reports that Gary Person spoke about the city's successes and growth over the past decades and during his 16 years in the post. He announced his intentions last week and said he wasn't being pushed out. At Tuesday's council meeting Person acknowledged the events involving Sidney Police Chief B.J. Wilkinson, who remains on paid administrative leave, stemming from an incident involving former city public works director John Hehnke, whom Person fired last week. Person told the council that if his resignation "will help the community heal, move forward and place its energy and focus into its very bright future, then please accept it." The council appointed City Clerk Geri Anthony as interim city manager.

Leader of Valley County Health System resigns
ORD, Neb. (AP) — The Valley County Health System's president and CEO has resigned following allegations of harassment and conflicts of interest. William T. Sugg, who had been on investigatory suspension since late June, resigned last week after an investigation revealed the accusations. Board Chairman Gary Garnick said Sugg's resignation becomes effective Monday, the same day his contract was set to expire. Attempts to reach Sugg for comment by The Grand Island Independent were unsuccessful. Garnick said Director of Finance Ashley Woodward will serve as interim CEO and that the board of trustees hopes to start the search for a new CEO soon. Two separate investigations into Sugg's conduct by an independent investigator revealed claims by female employees, who said that Sugg routinely gave them unwanted attention and touched them inappropriately.

Amputees decry Medicare payment overhaul for artificial feet
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Boston Marathon bombing survivor and a former U.S. Senator who lost a leg serving in Vietnam have joined an industry campaign to block new Medicare requirements for artificial legs and feet. Mounting cost in the last 10 years — even as the number of amputees went down — has prompted scrutiny from government investigators. Now, Medicare's billing contractors are proposing closer supervision and tighter rules. At a protest Wednesday at Health and Human Services headquarters, Boston Marathon bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet-Davis said the Medicare rules could influence treatment for younger patients like her. Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska has fired off a critical letter to HHS leadership. The Obama administration is saying little, although officials promise continued access to appropriate care.

3 people accused of selling mislabeled synthetic marijuana
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The owners of two Lincoln businesses face federal charges that they conspired to acquire and sell synthetic marijuana and commit other crimes. Court documents unsealed Tuesday say that between October 2013 and April this year, Allen Peithman Jr., Sharon Elder and Jacie Sanne bought and sold synthetic cannabinoids that were mislabeled to avoid drug regulations. The stores are Dirt Cheap and Island Smokes. Prosecutors say drug labels didn't suggest the drugs were not intended for human consumption, and the labels didn't include federally required warnings of possible side effects. Elder's lawyer, Bob Creager (KREE'-gur), declined to comment Wednesday. Online court records don't list the names of attorneys who could be contacted to comment on behalf of Peithman and Sanne.

Man loses custody battle for kids living with sex offender
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Court of Appeals has rejected a father's request for custody of his daughters to get them out of the home of a registered sex offender. The Central City man argued that a Phelps County District judge was wrong to find there was no significant risk to his 16- and 14-year-old daughters if they remain in the house with their stepfather. Court documents say the stepfather testified that he served four years in prison for sexually assaulting his 15-year-old stepdaughter from a previous marriage. A three-judge panel of the state appeals court said Tuesday that the lower court relied on a therapist's testimony that the stepfather wasn't likely to reoffend. The appeals panel also said the lower court properly considered what was in the best interests of the children.

Students encouraged to 'stake their claims' this school year
BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — School officials and Beatrice city leaders gathered this week to help encourage hundreds of young students to stake their claim this school year through academic achievement. The city of Beatrice's new branding slogan "Stake Your Claim" is intended to encourage residents to do their best for the betterment of the community. Fifth grade student Makenna Blum told the Beatrice Daily Sun that staking her claim means "standing up for what you believe in." Her friend, Macy Gronewold, added that it means establishing a path for yourself. Students from the city's four elementary schools joined officials on Tuesday at the Homestead National Monument of America to kick off the academic year. They also sang Happy Birthday to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Regulators say gravel mine failed to correct safety problems
ORD, Neb. (AP) — Federal regulators say a Nebraska gravel mine failed to correct the safety problems that contributed to a worker's death, but the company plans to appeal. The Mine Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday investigators found issues at Ulrich Gravel's mine in July that hadn't been corrected since a March death. Regulators say a 44-year-old worker died after the truck he was driving fell into a pond at the mine in Valley County. Ulrich's attorney Josh Schultz says the company believes the citations are inaccurate. He says Ulrich Gravel has a strong safety record after more than 35 years in business. Inspectors say the mine failed to erect berms or guardrails on roads next to water and failed to repair a cracked windshield on a front-end loader that could impair visibility.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press