For the second time in as many years, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District board has censured board member Scott Japp — this time for an allegedly defamatory Facebook post.
Japp, a second-term board member from Arlington, has used Facebook as a platform to criticize NRD management and others on the board.
Fellow board members censured Japp after an Aug. 8 post that accused NRD General Manager John Winkler, board members and other NRD staff members of a series of misdeeds.
Thursday, the board formally condemned Japp’s “dishonest statements” that it said “falsely accuse the board, management and staff of improprieties.”
The censure vote was 7-1, with Japp and Ron Woodle abstaining. Curt Frost voted no. Patrick Leahy was absent.
Japp said his statements were based on public documents, and he challenged other board members to prove they weren’t true.
“I don’t even think that’s worth answering,” said board Chairman David Klug. Japp’s accusations, he said, are simply false.
Japp said Friday that his post referred to an application for federal stimulus money to build a dam in Washington County and the subsequent condemnation proceedings. That project has since been abandoned.
NRD attorney David Newman, of the Omaha firm Husch Blackwell, told board members at the meeting that he believes some elements of Japp’s post meet the legal threshold for defamation.
In Douglas County District Court, an NRD lawsuit against Japp appears to be winding down.
That complaint, filed in February 2014, accused Japp of improperly interfering with a new dam site in northwest Omaha. With land for the new dam acquired and construction underway, the NRD filed a motion last week to dismiss the complaint.
District Judge Timothy Burns has ordered Japp and his attorney, K.C. Engdahl, to pay some of the NRD’s costs and attorney fees. NRD attorneys have asked for a sum of $5,933.
In filings last week, Engdahl argued that the court’s jurisdiction over the matter ended in March, when the NRD locked up the last piece of land it needed for the dam site.
Board treasurer John Conley said Thursday that the NRD’s legal bills in the case are approximately $114,000.
“It wasn’t me that started it,” Japp replied. “And it was you guys that pulled out.”