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Prison Lockdown Nebraska

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts answers questions during a 2017 news conference at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution with Nebraska Corrections Director Scott Frakes.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said Tuesday that Corrections Director Scott Frakes had never shared or discussed with him a second, previously undisclosed report on the 2015 Tecumseh prison riot that came to light last week. 

The report, which reached alternative conclusions to a Critical Incident Review Team report made public soon after the riot, was revealed last week as part of testimony in a lawsuit against the state.

The previously undisclosed report attributed the riot to conditions at the prison that primed the inmate rebellion and said it was a coordinated effort by certain inmates and gangs. 

Laura Ebke, chairwoman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, has scheduled a special hearing on the issue for Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Room 1524 at the Capitol. The hearing will be led by members of the Judiciary Committee and the Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee. 

Ricketts defended Frakes at a news conference, saying all state directors get multiple reports and write many memorandums. This second Tecumseh report was just one of the sources of advice on how to take the Corrections agency forward, he said. 

"When people ask for it, we release them," he said of those reports. "But we don't publish everything that we do because ... the volume of work is so great."

It appears the media or the Legislature would have had to ask for the specific report, which they did not know existed, in order to see it.

Sen. Les Seiler in 2016, on behalf of the Legislature's special investigative committee, had made a more general request for categories of documents or data, studies or reports, relating to staffing issues or declarations of emergency status arising out of the Tecumseh riot. The report was not included in Frakes' response to Seiler.

"The directors get lots of feedback and advice from a number of different places, they get counsel from a number of different places, and they're free to choose the counsel that they think is going to be best for running their agencies," Ricketts said. 

He speculated the second report contained advice and recommendations that Frakes was not going to take. Rather, he planned to take guidance from the Critical Incident Review Team report, which is the one he shared. 

The state paid at least $20,000 in taxpayer funds for the previously undisclosed report by consultants Dan Pacholke, of the Washington State Department of Corrections, and Bert Useem, of Purdue University.

So shouldn't there have been some indication a second report on the riot existed, reporters asked.

"Well, obviously, we're always willing to take a look at our processes to see if there's ways we can improve them," Ricketts said. 

But with so many consultants and advisers who supply reports, it's difficult to publish everything on the state's website, he said. But he would accept suggestions on how to make it easy for state officials to do that. 

Ricketts said his understanding was that Frakes is going to set up a time to discuss the specific report with the Legislature.

Frakes sent a letter Tuesday to Ebke saying he couldn't make the hearing because he will be on vacation. But he wants to meet with senators and answer their questions. With the pending former inmate lawsuit, however, it could mean he would not be able to answer some questions.  

Ebke's office has invited other Corrections Department officials to testify at the hearing, including Deputy Director for Programs Dawn-Renee Smith and Chief of Operations Diane Sabatka-Rine. It's unknown if they will attend the hearing. 

Ebke has also submitted a public-records request for documents and correspondences regarding the report. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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