Records Show State Employees Knew Nebraska Would Not Be Reimbursed For Border Deployment | national news


Documents obtained by The World-Herald show that the mission would cost Nebraska more than $ 334,000.

When Nebraska sent state troops to the Texas-Mexico border over the summer, spokespersons said the state could be reimbursed for the cost.

But behind the scenes, state employees agreed that Nebraska would pay for the deployment, according to emails and texts obtained by The World-Herald.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts was one of many Republican governors who responded to a call for help at the Texas-Arizona border through the Emergency Management Assistance Pact, commonly known as EMAC, a mutual aid agreement between states.

Ricketts said at the time that the state was “happy to step in” and that the federal government had failed in its response at the border.

The World-Herald reported in July that Nebraska had agreed not to seek reimbursement from Texas for costs, most recently estimated at $ 500,000.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who also sent troops to the border, said Iowa would foot the bill once the agreements go public. In South Dakota, the Washington Post reported, Governor Kristi Noem has deployed National Guard troops through a private donation from the Willis and Reba Johnson Foundation.

But in Nebraska, officials continued to say the refund was on the table.

The World-Herald has since examined dozens of pages of emails and text messages, obtained under the state’s public records law, between state officials and employees in the days that preceded the initial deployment and the expansion of the deployment.

Some show that the employees understood, even before the announcement of the deployment, that the State would not be reimbursed.

(A spokesperson for Ricketts didn’t fully rule out the refund last week, but said it was “unlikely.”)

The records shed light on the details of the initial deployment – including spending more than $ 20,000 on new uniforms – and its extension over the summer.

On June 15, Ricketts’ office received a letter from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey requesting that states send “all available law enforcement resources to the border to defend our sovereignty and our territorial integrity ”.

That same day, Bryan Tuma, who at the time headed the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, received a message with a subject line saying it contained details of Arizona and Texas’ EMAC request. (State Patrol, which released the documents, edited the entire body of the email as “tactical and strategic information.”)

Tuma passed the message on to Colonel John Bolduc, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, who passed it on to Patrol Captain Jason Scott, who would ultimately lead the deployment.

Some time before June 17, someone (whose name has been redacted) sent a message to Captain Kevin Ryan of the Patrol Administrative Services Division:

“Texas / Arizona launched a national EMAC asking for 500 troops. Pete’s office has asked us to prepare a proposal to send 25. I’ll be on the phone all day with Carol and (redacted) get her ready. We will not be refunded for this one.

On June 17, a controller from the Patrol’s Accounting Division asked for clarification on the timing of the deployment and added, “Additionally, Russ mentioned that we may not be reimbursed,” apparently referring to Major Russell Lewis of the administrative services division.

” Is that the case ? Who are we going to be able to submit this to like all other EMACs through NEMA for reimbursement? “

In response, the person (whose name has been redacted) said they were on the road and asked them to call.

An email suggested reimbursement for some of the costs was rumored to be possible. In a message to Bolduc on June 17, Tuma said the state sent an offer to Texas that morning, asked if there was permission to proceed and added:

“Also hearing, the Texas legislature may authorize funds to cover incidental expenses, such as accommodation, meals, travel,” he wrote. “I cannot confirm for sure.”

Bolduc passed the message on to Scott and said “FYI. I informed Mr. Tuma that we are receiving the green light from the governor.

Ricketts has since echoed the idea of ​​Texas providing a refund at a special session, but the Texas governor’s office told the World-Herald that there was no special session scheduled.

Even if that reimbursement rumor had taken place, documents show that Nebraska’s estimated travel costs and proceeds were to be 30% of an initial estimate of $ 334,012. Staff costs, which would not have been reimbursed under this proposal, represented 70% of the estimated costs.

When asked for more details on Tuma’s knowledge of a potential reimbursement, a spokesperson for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said they had no answers and Tuma has since retired. The World-Herald could not reach Tuma for comment.

By June 18, the details of the deployment were in place.

Someone texted Ryan saying that “Jay Scott” had stopped by a uniform store and decided that the uniforms the person had chosen would not work.

“I guess it wasn’t going to be long-lasting enough,” the person wrote. “I thought they were going to last 16 days not 16 weeks,” adding a laughing emoji and “Whatever”.

An invoice from an Omaha uniform store, dated June 23, shows the state patrol billed for $ 22,203 for uniform parts such as tactical boots, T-shirts, polo shirts , hats and pants. Shipping accounted for $ 1,177 of that cost.

State Patrol spokesman Cody Thomas said the new light green uniforms were issued to minimize the possibility of heat-related health issues – traditional uniforms are dark blue, he said. said, and the training uniforms are black. Soldiers can now use the new ones as training uniforms, Thomas said.

A final list of people heading to Texas was shared on June 18, along with deployment dates: June 27 through July 10.

A request from the Texas Department of Public Safety says Texas and Arizona have asked states “to absorb the costs associated with this mission in support of the whole country” and “to provide free services. in Texas “.

An agreement signed by Major General Daryl L. Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard, on June 18, stated that “NEBRASKA WILL NOT REQUEST A REIMBURSEMENT OF THE STATE OF TEXAS – THE ESTIMATES OF THE COTS ARE ONLY INCLUDED FOR FUTURE AUDIT PURPOSES. “

Ricketts’ office announced the deployment on June 19.

A spokesperson for the governor that day did not answer questions about who would pay for it. Days later, Thomas wrote in an email that the funding had not been finalized as critics called for more transparency.

Thomas said the agency was reimbursed for previous responses requested through the same partnership, such as during the pipeline protests in North Dakota.

Thomas gave a similar response on July 9, when Ricketts announced that “15 soldiers from the Nebraska State Patrol would continue their voluntary deployment to Texas for an additional 14 days.”

This characterization of the expansion also gave a different feel to the behind-the-scenes conversations, which referred to a second wave of soldiers.

The patrol originally said the extended deployment included 15 soldiers and the rest would return to Nebraska; but eight remained from the original group, and the state sent seven new soldiers.

In total, Thomas said recently, 32 soldiers participated in the deployment.

This second wave, according to an email, included a “SWAT list.” Thomas said members of the SWAT team were included in both waves and primarily assist United States customs and border protection officials.

“Much of this work was done on foot where vehicles could not travel,” he wrote.

Records also show that deployed soldiers received “differential pay,” which Thomas said is an additional 85 cents per hour and is typically paid to soldiers who start their shift after 3 p.m.

That would work out to about $ 10 more per day for each soldier.

“All soldiers deployed at the rank of sergeant or private received differential pay as part of this mission,” Thomas wrote in an email. “This decision was taken in response to questions raised by the state soldiers union regarding the posted service allowance.”

When the World-Herald reported on Nebraska’s agreement not to seek reimbursement, Ricketts’ office and State Patrol said a source of funding had not been finalized and that “wording of the agreement had been included to speed up deployment. “

The Texans tasked the legislature with implementing key state priorities in this last special session, including property tax relief, redistribution and funding of nearly $ 16 billion in l ‘American Rescue Plan Act, and we’ve gone beyond to address those priorities as well. like solving other critical Texas issues. Due to the efforts of the Texas House and Senate to get these priorities across the finish line, there is no need to host another special session at this time.

She did not say whether Abbott intended to propose or otherwise encourage the legislature to repay.

When the World-Herald emailed this statement to then-Ricketts spokesperson Taylor Gage, along with quotes from internal messages showing he understood Nebraska would not be reimbursed, Gage said in an email: “Refund is unlikely at this point, but we’re continuing to push Texas for this.

State Patrol did not calculate the total amount spent on the deployment to Texas, according to Thomas, because the costs “were absorbed by the NSP budget.”

The cost estimate of $ 500,000 provided at a press conference in July remains the best estimate, he said.


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