The conflict at the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District boiled over Thursday as the board voted to refer one member's actions to a county prosecutor.
The NRD's lawyers will ask the Douglas County Attorney's Office to investigate whether board member Scott Japp acted improperly when he asked landowners in the path of the district's newest reservoir, a $43 million dam site planned for northwest Omaha, to sign topsoil lease agreements with a company he represents.
Separately, the NRD also will seek an injunction in Douglas County District Court “with respect to such quarry lease agreement.”
Both measures were approved Thursday on 7-2 votes. Ron Woodle and Tim Fowler were absent. Japp and Curt Frost, who represents northern Douglas County, voted no.
It was Japp's first vote on an agenda item since October. In November, he announced that he would no longer participate in meetings because of a letter the district sent to news media and some government agencies saying Japp does not speak for the district.
The conflict stems from the board's May vote to approve a bond issue for Dam Site 15A, which will flood 225 acres for a new reservoir at 168th and Fort Streets.
Japp, Frost and David Klug of Gretna voted against the project. But Japp went further.
In November, as district representatives were negotiating buyouts with the 17 landowners whose property will be flooded, Japp sent landowners a letter saying he represented a company, Canudigit LLC, that had an interest in quarrying their topsoil. A proposed mineral lease was attached.
District officials complained that Japp's proffer would complicate buyouts in the reservoir footprint and potentially constituted a conflict of interest, depending on his connection to the company.
It's not clear whether Canudigit LLC exists, however. It's not incorporated in Nebraska, and no companies with similar names in other states said they had business pending in Nebraska.
Japp declined earlier this week to answer questions posed by board members about the company or the lease proposal. But on Thursday, he said he's not involved in the company and knows nothing about who's behind it.
“I'm looking forward to what action you guys are taking,” Japp said.
The incident caps a tense year in which Japp accused the district of financial misconduct, which the state auditor said were unfounded, and of withholding public records.
The board also censured Japp for "rude and abusive behavior" and formally condemned his "alienating manner" and "reckless assertions," and Japp sued the district in Sarpy County Court, seeking a $42 reimbursement he'd been denied for a trip to a neighboring natural resources district.