State Auditor Charlie Janssen acknowledged Friday a report in the Omaha World-Herald that showed he spent long lunch breaks — sometimes more than three hours — at a Lincoln bar eating and drinking beer.
Over a period of 20 working days since Aug. 15, the newspaper reported observing Janssen spending lengthy lunches 10 times at the Brewsky’s location at 16th and South streets, 1 mile south of Janssen’s office at the state Capitol.
Janssen, who is up for re-election this year, issued a news release on Friday acknowledging the reports are true and apologizing to Nebraskans for his choices in how he has spent many of his workdays.
“I am taking steps to make changes in my personal and professional life,” Janssen said.
He urged citizens to look at the work his auditor’s office has been doing, uncovering numerous cases of fraud and abuse, and the fact that he has come in under budget each year he has been in office.
The work of the auditor’s office is done by 12 managers, including former Sen. Russ Karpisek, who is the legislative liaison for the office; seven auditors in charge; 20 auditors and investigation examiners; one attorney; one business manager; one administrative assistant; and three interns. That number of employees was as of July.
In 2018, as of Sept. 10, the office had completed 127 audits of counties, boards, state agencies, retirement plans, fire districts, the state treasurer’s office, county courts, the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy counties, the State Patrol, the Game and Parks Commission and others.
Other than fulfilling the duties of conducting audits and developing and maintaining a budget, state law does not address the number of hours for the elected auditor to be in the office working, or how specific hours are to be spent.
The state Department of Administrative Services has a drug and alcohol policy for state workers that does not allow their use during working hours, or whenever conducting business or representing the agency. The auditor is a constitutional office holder and not subject to state employee rules of conduct.
Janssen told the World-Herald on Thursday that he gets the work done and is very productive. He said his workday begins at 5 a.m. at his home in Fremont.
In its story published Friday, the newspaper said that on 47 of 71 days reporters were observing Janssen, his vehicle was not seen parked at the Capitol prior to 10 a.m. or in the afternoon.
His opponent in the auditor’s race, Omaha librarian Jane Skinner, also issued a news release Friday saying, “It’s been clear for years to anyone who has been paying attention that Janssen’s heart is not in his work.”
She said the people of Nebraska deserve better.
Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said the auditor has a watchdog role and is charged with rooting out government mismanagement, waste and misconduct.
“I guess the auditor needs an auditor,” she said.
Janssen, 47, a Republican, served in the Nebraska Legislature from 2009 to 2014 and made a brief bid for governor before being elected the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts. He is president of RTG Medical, a medical staffing company located in Fremont.
The auditor’s post pays $85,000 a year.