State senator to Nebraska AG: Compel St. Francis Ministries to preserve all documents

Posted at 6:55 PM, Sep 01, 2022

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — The state of Nebraska and child welfare provider Saint Francis Ministriesformally ended their relationship this year but Omaha State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh isn’t ready to drop the issue.

Especially after St. Francisfiled a lawsuit against its former leadersthis summer.

“So it felt like a good time to revisit whether Nebraska has a claim in all this,” said Cavanaugh.

Financial issues plagued the nonprofitwhen it ran child welfare services with the state. Last year the state announced the relationship mutually ended. This year the legislature passed a law ending the privatization of child welfare.

Thursday, Cavanaugh pointed to a lawsuit from Kansas that indicated leaders of the organization mishandled, overcharged and overspent funds.

“Continually there has been mismanagement of the organization, of St. Francis ministries and the state of Nebraska and the state of Kansas have had great issues with that and it was to the detriment of children in both our states,” said Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh sent a letter to Attorney General Doug Peterson, asking him to compel St. Francis and previous leaders to preserve documents and ask the Nebraska State Patrol to investigate.

One thing she wants to know: if $10 million — given from the state to St. Francis, outside of either of the two contracts in 2021 — was legal.

“I would like to know if that is a legitimate expense by the State of Nebraska because it is very questionable to me that it is.”

She said it’s the state’s responsibility to recoup any dollars they can and, as the governor and attorney general plan to leave office next year, now is the time.

“I think it’s really essential for our outgoing administration to take every step possible to ensure we are preserving this information for the next administration,” said Cavanaugh.

A spokesperson for the Nebraska Attorney General's office had no comment on the letter sent Thursday.

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