State Auditor Charlie Janssen has big amends to make for his unprofessional behavior — amends to the public and to his staff members.
A three-month investigation by The World-Herald found a pattern of late-morning arrivals by Janssen at his Capitol office, long lunches lasting up to three hours or more involving beer drinking, and little evidence that he was at the office on many afternoons.
If a mid-level state employee conducted himself in that fashion, there would be serious consequences. Janssen is a high-level official elected statewide, overseeing a major state agency, and he should be held to an even higher standard. That he didn’t realize this indicates a major lack of judgment. (Janssen’s casual approach to his work at the State Capitol goes back to his time in the Legislature, where his habits were frequently low-energy.)
On Friday, Janssen issued a statement that The World-Herald reporting about his workday routine was accurate and that he aims to change his behavior. “I apologize to the citizens of Nebraska for some of my choices,” Janssen said, “and effective immediately I am taking steps to make changes in my personal and professional life.”
Is that pledge enough? Janssen needs to think through whether he should go further and step down from office.
Additionally, Nebraska lawmakers should ponder whether any changes in state law are warranted to prevent such behavior in the future.
This situation puts voters in an exasperating position. Janssen, a Republican, is up for re-election this fall. His Democratic opponent, Jane Skinner, a part-time specialist at an Omaha library and political novice, has not mounted a substantial campaign. She said she lacks the funds to buy yard signs.
Janssen was correct Friday when he pointed to the impressive, professional work the staff in the Auditor’s Office has done over the past four years.
Their audits indeed have served the public well. Which makes it all the more dismaying that Janssen, their leader, has harmed the agency through his needless actions.