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Prosecutors decline to file charges against former State Capitol administrator

State Cap Hallway.jpg
Posted at 6:10 PM, May 06, 2023

LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — Grabbing a finger that someone points at you in anger doesn’t rise, at least in one instance, in the filing of criminal charges.

Prosecutors this week said they have declined to file charges against the longtime administrator of the Nebraska State Capitol, Bob Ripley, for an incident prior to the annual Statehood Day Dinner in the historic structure.

Bob Ripley, retired Nebraska State Capitol administrator. (Courtesy of Nebraska Capitol Commission)

Ripley, according to eyewitnesses and those involved, was engaged in an argument with a linen and dishes supplier before the March 4 event when the supplier angrily pointed a finger at his face and he grabbed it.

Allegation of assault

The altercation led to an assault allegation by the operator of AAA Rents and Events Services, an investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol, Ripley being suspended with pay, and eventually, his retirement, ending nearly five decades as the main protector of the Capitol.

Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon said this week that his office had declined to file charges in the case. He noted that no citations had been issued in the incident, and even if they had been, no charges would result.

Ripley, when asked by the Examiner, said he was only doing what he had always done, which is to protect the State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark.

Only banquet held in the Capitol

The Statehood Day Dinner, sponsored by the Nebraskaland Foundation, is the only banquet held in the State Capitol. Chairs, tables and serving stations are set up throughout the hallways and in the Rotunda to accommodate up to 350 diners.

The State Capitol Rotunda, viewed from the fifth floor gallery, where a new visitors center is being planned. (Courtesy of State Sen. Robert Clements)

The altercation occurred as workers with AAA Rents were installing poles and curtains to screen off areas where dinner plates were to be filled with food. The company had not been hired to work in the Capitol for several years after damaging the building during past events.

This time, Ripley — who is well-known for strictly defending the Capitol — said that the metal bases of the poles used to hold the curtains were scratching the marble floor.

Dispute ensued

That led to an argument.

Gretchen Law of AAA Rents did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

But in March, Law said that her staff has “never been disrespectful” of the Capitol and that Ripley acted inappropriately rudely to one of her employees.

“It’s bizarre,” Law said at the time. “(He) thought he was better than God. He thought he had a right to touch one of my employees.”

A reporter did see grease spots and a smudge-like streak running across one of the ornate mosaics on the Capitol floor after the event.

Katie Zulkoski, the president of the Nebraskaland Foundation board, declined to comment Friday other than to say the Statehood Day Dinner will continue to be held at the Capitol.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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