Sen. Bob Krist, the Democratic candidate for Nebraska Governor, said thursday that Nebraska families and taxpayers should hold Gov. Pete Ricketts personally responsible for “the serial problems of abuse, mismanagement and waste of taxpayer dollars occurring in the State’s Child Welfare system.”
Krist pointed to an audit, released in the past week, pointing out what it called “the gross mismanagement of funds within the Child Welfare system”. It said $26 million dollars were spent inappropriately.
“This is just the latest in a long line of problems within our Child Welfare system under Gov. Ricketts watch and instances where Gov. Ricketts and his administration have simply buried their heads in the sand, done nothing to fix the problems, opposed policy and oversight that would help find solutions, and/or simply made excuses for why these abhorrent failures are either acceptable, palatable, or justifiable,” Krist said, adding “Pete Ricketts has stood silent and done nothing to address these issues.”
Krist went on to say that, at no point (in Pete Ricketts term) has the Department been in compliance with the law regarding the staffing needed to meet minimum caseload standards for Child Welfare cases.
He also said that, in 2015 and 2016 “we have 22 cases documented where kids in our Child Welfare system died or were seriously injured.” He also said that, between 2013 and 2016, at least 50 Nebraska kids, some as young as 4 years old, suffered sexual abuse while in the state’s care or after being placed in an adoptive or guardianship home.
Governor Ricketts called Krist’s charges “misleading”.
“Bob Krist is lying about Governor Ricketts’ work to improve the child welfare system. The safety and wellbeing of children involved in the child welfare system has been, and continues to be, a top priority” said campaign spokesman Matthew Trail. He went on to say that Ricketts has been fixing problems left by the Administration of Former Governor Dave Heinemann. “Inheriting a troubled system, the Ricketts administration has used innovation and enhanced accountability to improve care for Nebraska’s vulnerable youth. These efforts have contributed to a nearly ten-percent decrease in the number of children placed outside their home in the last year.”
Regarding he audit reporting that $26 million dollars were wasted, Litt said, “The $26 million figure utilized in the audit characterizes projected errors in spending and not actual misspent funds; does not inform the public of our efforts that addressed unallowable expenditures by PromiseShip (an independent contractor) before the state audit; and inappropriately critiques the Governor and Legislator for their decision regarding our child welfare appropriation.
Litt also said that Krist has been a supporter of PromiseShip, the contractor named in the Audit. “Bob Krist introduced Legislation Helping Extend PromiseShip’s Contract In 2014, adding that Krist “praised the new contract and the efforts of HHS officials to reach an agreement.”
Ricketts and Krist are scheduled to hold a debate at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island August 30.