Prison officials ordered to testify on sentences
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Five people who worked in Nebraska's prison system have been ordered to testify before a legislative committee investigating why hundreds of inmate sentences were miscalculated.
Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy issued the ruling on Friday. Stacy said their testimony can't be used against them in a criminal prosecution.
Three former employees and two current ones asserted their right to remain silent after they were subpoenaed to appear at a legislative hearing next week.
The former employees are George Green and Sharon Lindgren, who retired two weeks ago under threat of being fired, and Jeannene Douglass, who retired earlier. The current employees are Kyle Poppert and Kathleen Blum, who were both suspended.
The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating the erroneous sentences, but no charges have been filed.
School board puts $421M bond measure on ballot
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha school board has placed a $421 million bond measure on the November ballot to repair old schools and eventually build more schools where student enrollment is increasing.
The Omaha World-Herald says the board unanimously voted Thursday to put the issue on the November general election ballot. If the measure passes, it would raise property taxes in the school district by $90 on a home valued at $150,000.
Board members also say if the measure passes in November, they plan to put another bond issue of $377 million forward in May 2017. It's part of a two-pronged plan to spread proposed construction costs.
The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce's board chairman has endorsed the measure. He says updating the schools aligns with the organization's efforts toward growing the city.
HEALTH INSURER-COSTS DISPUTE
Stalemate between Nebraska insurer, hospital chain
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The contract between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and Catholic Health Initiatives is set to expire Sunday after the two sides failed Friday to agree on rates.
The failed bargaining means that starting Monday, people who visit doctors or hospitals in Nebraska associated with the Catholic Health Initiatives network will have to pay more if they have insurance from Blue Cross.
Blue Cross says CHI Health, which used to be called Alegent Creighton Health, routinely charges 10 to 30 percent more than other Omaha hospitals. CHI Health says those figures are misleading and it believes its total cost of treatment is lower, even if certain services cost more.
A Blue Cross spokesman says no other negotiation meetings are scheduled this weekend before the contract is set to expire Sunday.
Nebraska tribe agrees to settlement on utilities
MACY, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and its utilities commission have reached a settlement with the federal government to improve the tribe's drinking and wastewater systems as well as its trash collection program.
The settlement, announced Friday, requires the tribe to implement utilities improvements valued at about $1 million. They would also pay a civil penalty of $2,000.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims the tribe violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Water Act. The settlement resolves those claims.
The settlement is in the form of a judicial consent decree filed with the U.S. District Court of Nebraska. It addresses utilities serving the communities of Macy and Walthill, located on the Omaha Reservation.
Norfolk companies paying EPA pesticide penalties
NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - Two related companies in Norfolk have settled allegations regarding the production and sale of what federal regulators say are unregistered and misbranded pesticides.
The Environmental Protection Agency says Customer Feed Services Corporation and Earthworks Health will pay civil penalties totaling more than $74,500. The EPA says it learned after a 2011 state inspection that the companies were selling or producing diatomaceous earth and copper sulfate products. The EPA says such products have to be registered with the EPA and must be properly labeled to avoid causing unintentional harm to people or the environment.
Company owner Larry Smith said Friday the EPA has very strict regulations about what can be said in distributing these products, and "we omitted some of this terminology in the distribution of these safe and natural products."
CHILD PORN SENTENCE
Gering man sentenced for child porn conviction
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A western Nebraska man has been sentenced to six years in federal prison for distributing child pornography.
U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg announced Friday that 52-year-old Ralph Moreno, of Gering, was sentenced in Lincoln's federal court.
Investigators say that last fall, videos of child pornography were downloaded from Moreno's computer, and a review of his computer revealed more than 200 child porn videos collected over a five-year period. Authorities say the videos depicted children between the ages of 6 and 12 engaged in sex acts.
There is no parole in the federal prison system. Moreno must register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.
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