LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — The Nebraska Legislature was shaken up last week after news that State Senator Mike Groene of North Platte took pictures of a staff member without her permission.
Groene resigned Friday, saying he’s out of politics completely, but that isn’t stopping lawmakers from calling for a full investigation.
The former staffer, Kristina Konecko told online publication Nebraska Sunrise News that while performing a task on Groene's computer, she found provocative images of her body parts that Groene emailed to himself with explicit subject lines.
Groene resigned from his job Friday and told the Nebraska Examiner he's dropping out of politics completely.
Groene also contested Konecko's account saying that "there were not pictures that were zoomed in or anything."
State Sen. Jen Day said she caught wind that something happened and was unsurprised due to a culture in the Capitol that has been tough on women for a while.
"When I got elected before I got sworn in, some even warned me about it, the really deep misogyny that exists in the Nebraska Legislature towards female senators and female staff members,” said Day.
Groene was known in the Unicameral as a plain-spoken conservative, who loudly fought for rural Nebraska and sometimes against help for Omaha and Lincoln. He also didn't care for being politically correct or for collegiality among senators.
After telling one senator to shut up, some senators said Groene then made an offensive hand gesture toward a female member of the legislature.
As for the most recent incident, it is now on the executive board to investigate the details regarding what happened with Groene, the staffer, the pictures and the laptop.
"A lot of details are missing here in terms of who else is potentially involved in this,” said Day.
She is eager for a full forensic audit of Groene's state-owned laptop and ultimately hopes the board gets to the bottom of what happened and tells the public.
"They ultimately have to make the choice on how much they want to find out and how much information they want to share with the rest of us. I think they're capable and there is people on the board that want to do that,” said Day.
Vice-Chair of the Executive Board Tony Vargas says he's committed to making sure the process is transparent and to improving processes to ensure people are comfortable working at the Capitol.
“I will continue to support making these internal processes and procedures more transparent and take greater steps towards ensuring that no one is ever made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in the workplace," Vargas said.
State Sen. Megan Hunt wants to know if laws were broken and called on law enforcement last weekend to investigate possible crimes.
Hunt cited a few possible law violations including unlawful intrusion, which is a felony, and official misconduct, which is a misdemeanor. She also suggested witness tampering as a possible charge.
Day hopes that, whatever is uncovered, the legislature eventually becomes an easier place for women to work.
"It's unfortunate that it has to come to this, but I think we can use this to have a really strong important discussion that has needed to be had for several years now,” said Day.
Gov. Pete Ricketts has the power to appoint a state senator for the rest of the term, which ends this year. That conservative vote could be important on bills concerning abortion, which are expected to come up in the near future.
There is a self-set precedent for Ricketts to abstain from making the appointment to choose to leave the seat open. In 2018, Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion resigned after the session and Ricketts chose to leave the seat vacant until the midterm elections.