Gov. Heineman said he had heard rumors of Sheehy's relationships -
Published Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 12:14 pm
Gov. Heineman said he had heard rumors of Sheehy's relationships

LINCOLN — Gov. Dave Heineman said Monday that he had heard rumors in the past about Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy involving other women but had regarded them as just that until getting “new and more information” late last week.

“I don't act on rumors,” the governor said. “Every time I became aware of something of a serious nature, I checked into it.”

On Friday, The World-Herald presented the governor with a summary of a monthlong investigation showing that Sheehy had made more than 2,300 calls on a state-issued cellphone to four women other than his wife over the past four years. One of the women told the newspaper that she had had an affair with the lieutenant governor since 2008.

Sheehy abruptly resigned Saturday morning, the day after the governor confronted him about the findings.

On Monday, a state political accountability official said Sheehy could face a fine and possibly jail time for making nonessential personal calls on a state cellphone.

Also on Monday, Heineman told reporters that while he had confronted his lieutenant governor at least twice about rumors, it was the information provided by The World-Herald on Friday that forced the situation to a head.

“Let's just say we had a conversation or two and leave it at that,” the governor said. “He made some personal decisions he shouldn't have.”

Public officials are rightly held to a higher standard of conduct, Heineman said, which includes not misusing state resources nor engaging in improper relationships.

“People have a right to expect us to lead by example in a variety of ways,” he said. “If it had occurred in the private sector, this wouldn't have been the front story in all of your media outlets.”

Sheehy, a 53-year-old former mayor of Hastings, was the presumed front-runner in the 2014 race for the Republican nomination for governor.

His resignation throws that race wide open. Some say it gives the Democratic Party a chance to grab a post it hasn't held since 1999. The departure has also left vacant the lieutenant governor's job.

Timeline of Rick Sheehy's career

November 1994: Sheehy is first elected to the City Council in Hastings, Neb., the state's seventh largest city.

November 2000: Sheehy, after six years on the City Council, is elected as Hastings' mayor.

January 2005: Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman taps Sheehy to be his lieutenant governor.

December 2011: Sheehy files the necessary paperwork and enters the 2014 Nebraska gubernatorial race.

July 2012: Sheehy's wife of 28 years, Colleen Sheehy, files for divorce.

February 2013: Sheehy resigns his Lt. Gov. post after a World-Herald investigation into his state cellphone records.

Heineman said Monday that it may take “several weeks” to pick a replacement for the $75,000-a-year post.

He clarified that he's looking for someone who will promise not to run for governor in 2014. And he ruled out appointing any current state senator.

The Nebraska Constitution bars the appointment of any state senator to a new state job during a legislative session. That would force Heineman to wait until after the 2013 session ends June 5 if he wanted to appoint a state legislator to the lieutenant governor's job. Heineman said that is too long to wait.

State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha had been rumored as a possible candidate for Sheehy's old job.

While Heineman had endorsed Sheehy in his now-scuttled 2014 run for governor, he said Monday that it was “highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely” that he would endorse another GOP candidate now.

The governor said he didn't want to appoint someone to the lieutenant governor's job who planned to run for governor in 2014 because he didn't want to give anyone an advantage in that race.

Contested primaries, he said, have helped make the GOP the dominant party in the state.
“I've got a lot of friends” who are looking at running, he said.

The prohibition on picking someone who will run in 2014 rules out University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln, who is eyeing that race.

The governor repeated Monday that he found it doubtful Sheehy would face criminal charges for making the personal calls on a government phone.

But Frank Daley, executive director of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Commission, said civil and criminal penalties are both a possibility.

State law prohibits the use of a state-issued cellphone for other than state business or “essential” personal uses, such as calling a spouse, a teacher, a day care center or a child at home.

Sheehy's calls could constitute a violation of a political accountability statute that prohibits state government officials from using government resources except for government purposes.

The accountability commission could decide to refer the matter for possible criminal prosecution to either the Nebraska Attorney General's Office or a county attorney, or the commission could pursue civil penalties on its own.

A criminal violation of the act is a Class III misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail, a $500 fine or both. Any criminal cases would be tried in court before a judge.

If civil penalties were sought instead, it would be up to the nine-member commission to decide if a violation had occurred, after an investigation and a hearing. The commission can levy civil fines of up to $2,000 per violation, Daley said.

The governor said his office was reviewing Sheehy's records to determine whether the state will seek reimbursement for the improper phone calls.

Heineman's spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein, said Sheehy's phone was on a plan that provided unlimited minutes, which complicates how to calculate which calls represented improper expenses and which were proper expenses.

Sheehy's state cellphone was deactivated Saturday. He has not responded to requests for comment since Friday, when The World-Herald first presented him with results of its investigation.

The probe revealed that Sheehy repeatedly called four single women, often late into the night, in calls that stretched 40 to 100 minutes. The women included two former elected officials widely known in their communities. One of them, a Bellevue doctor and former City Council member there, said she had a four-year affair with Sheehy. Another woman, a former school board president and Chamber of Commerce official in Holdrege, did not respond to numerous requests for an interview.

The two other women — one living in Texas, the other in Colorado — told the newspaper their late-night calls were not sexual in nature.

The vast majority of the calls came before Sheehy's wife of nearly 29 years, Connie, filed for divorce in July.

The governor appointed Sheehy in 2005.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9584,

Contact the writer: Paul Hammel    |   402-473-9584    |  

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues and helps coordinate the same.

Council Bluffs school board approves new district headquarters
Officials announce effort to lure more veterans to Nebraska
SB 132nd Street lane closed
Shane Osborn grabs several endorsements
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
Firefighters take on 'fully engulfed barn fire'
Man's body found near North 36th, Seward Streets
Omaha area may get 1 inch of rain tonight
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
Owners of exotic dance bar deny prostitution allegations
More Nebraskans are electing to vote early
A day after Ricketts endorsement, Ted Cruz backs Sasse for Senate
TD Ameritrade says profit up 35 percent in second quarter
Some city streets remain closed
Nebraska's U.S. Senate candidates stick to familiar topics at Omaha forum
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
8% of alcohol sellers checked in Omaha area last week sold booze to minors
OPS bus, SUV collide; no students onboard at the time
Lori Jenkins, charged as accessory in 4 murders, waives speedy trial
Iowa State servers hacked, nearly 30,000 SSNs at risk
2nd District House race: After 8 terms, Lee Terry knows how D.C. works — and doesn't
< >
Breaking Brad: Inside the mind of a 99-year-old real estate agent
I saw an article about a 99-year-old real estate agent who's still working. “This house is extra special. It has indoor toilets!”
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
The idea that Paul Hogan had studied and then hatched at his mother's table was that older people, rather than moving in with relatives or to an assisted-living center, would much prefer to stay home instead.
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Breaking Brad: Kraft wiener recall is business opportunity for TD Ameritrade Park
Instead of returning the wieners, TD Ameritrade Park is calling them "cheese dogs" and charging double.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »