LINCOLN — Former Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy repaid Nebraska $500 for utilizing a state-owned cellphone to make hundreds of late-night calls to four women other than his wife.
The calls, which totaled more than 2,300 over four years, were revealed in an investigation by The World-Herald and led to Sheehy's abrupt resignation in February.
Sheehy, a 53-year-old former mayor of Hastings, had filed as a Republican governor candidate for the 2014 election and had been considered a front-runner until he left office.
At that time, Gov. Dave Heineman said he was considering seeking reimbursement for improper use of the state-issued cellphone, even though State Auditor Mike Foley and others said it would be impossible to assign a monetary loss since state phones are on unlimited use plans.
Such plans charge a set rate regardless of the number and length of phone calls.
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.
An official who oversees state phone usage said reimbursement for improper calls has been sought from other state employees and paid in the past.
Sheehy's calls could constitute a violation of a political accountability law that prohibits state officials from using government resources for nongovernment purposes. But it's unknown if an investigation was launched.
Heineman's spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein, said Tuesday that the governor turned the Sheehy matter over to Larry Bare, his chief of staff. Bare determined that $500 was a “fair and reasonable” amount of reimbursement, Hein said.
Sheehy provided a $500 check to the state on Feb. 25, and it was credited back to the office of lieutenant governor, she said.
“We have put this entire situation behind us and have been focused on continuing to move the state forward in a positive direction,” Hein said. “We do not have further comment.”
Confirmation of the reimbursement comes as Sheehy's divorce from his wife is now final.
The divorce decree, signed April 30, calls for the couple's home in Hastings to go to Connie Sheehy. Rick Sheehy, who did not hire an attorney for the divorce, agreed to pay $1,000 toward his wife's legal bills.
No alimony was awarded, and the division of property statement was not included in the divorce record.
The couple were married Sept. 2, 1983, in Lexington, Neb. They have two grown children.
Connie Sheehy filed for divorce in July, long after the calls to the four other women began, according to cellphone records. One of the women admitted to a long-running affair with the lieutenant governor.
A message left Tuesday with Connie Sheehy's attorney, Lucinda Cordes Glen, was not returned. Glen is Connie Sheehy's sister.
Rick Sheehy has moved out of a south Lincoln apartment he rented after the divorce filing.
A reporter on Tuesday stopped at a Lincoln townhouse owned by Michele Ehresman, who got the bulk of the calls from Sheehy's cellphone, and asked her to relay a message to the former lieutenant governor. A message was also left on his cellphone.
Sheehy did not return the messages. He has not made any public comment since being asked by The World-Herald about the cellphone calls.
Ehresman, who agreed to leave her job as public relations chief for a Lincoln-based agriculture group in the wake of the scandal, expressed hope that this would be the last story in the saga.
“Our lives have been turned upside down,” she said.
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