Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Appointment of Oltmans - Bad Judgement By Suttle

Mayor-elect Suttle made his first few appointments late yesterday announcing two Chiefs of Staff, Steve Oltmans for operations and Matt Samp for external community issues or something like that. If the appointment of Oltmans is any example of the judgement and decision making we can expect from Suttle the City of Omaha is in real trouble.

While the local daily may have glossed over it, the fact is that Oltmans was fired from his position at the Papio Missouri River NRD, not because of a long-term affair, but because of a long-term affair with a board member whose vote he influenced in at least one decision and because he lied to the board.

Oltmans had his chance at public service. He disrespected his wife and family. He entered into an unethical relationship with a board member of an organization he worked for. He created a conflict of interest for that board member and for himself. His employees were affected by his behavior. He lied to the board. His actions affected the image of the governmental institution that he worked for. The record keeping under Oltmans was lax. Suttle's choice of Oltmans, who is admittedly a talented guy, sends the wrong message. Can he be trusted to represent the best interests of the mayor and the city of Omaha--ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Here some of what the Omaha World Herald had to say in April 2006:

"The board will meet in executive session at NRD headquarters to discuss Steve Oltmans' future and the affair he had with former board member Barb Nichols."

"In the statement to his staff, Oltmans admitted that he had initially misled some board members before telling them the truth."

"Board members told The World-Herald that it was not so much the affair that has troubled them. Oltmans jeopardized his credibility with the board, they say, by misleading them.
"There are some pretty upset board members. No one likes to be lied to," said board member Tim Fowler, who represents southern Douglas County. "But that's just one piece of the puzzle."
Fowler and board member Rich Tesar also want Oltmans' expense account audited to be sure he didn't spend natural resources district money on Nichols."


"Nichols said Tuesday that she and Oltmans have been seeing each other since the late 1990s, including her time on the board from 2001 until 2005. Oltmans is 62; Nichols is 54.
She said she accompanied him on numerous NRD outings in the Omaha area and, while on the board, joined him on an NRD-related trip to Minneapolis."


"Some board members said they long suspected an affair."

"Jansen said board members decided to raise the issue with Oltmans in January after receiving complaints from staff that he was becoming short-tempered. The relationship with Nichols, staff members suspected, might be the reason."


"It was at that meeting that Oltmans denied the affair, Jansen said."


"When Nichols learned that Oltmans had denied the relationship, she provided board members evidence, specifically two pictures, one of the couple on the Minneapolis trip, the other of Oltmans helping her assemble her campaign signs."


"A group of board members met again with Oltmans this week and confronted him about the pictures as well as his cell phone logs. At that point, Oltmans acknowledged the relationship, Jansen said."


"A board member said the board could fire Oltmans based on a contract provision allowing termination for "unprofessional conduct which interferes substantially with the continued performance of the duties of general manager."

"Jansen said the board is facing a difficult decision."

"Nichols has had her own share of troubles, including family legal battles and financial difficulties because she has no income. She also has had several shoplifting convictions."


"Oltmans, she said, has helped her with groceries, meals and gasoline."

"The NRD has become an important part of her life, she said. Even though she lost a bid for re-election two years ago, she has continued to attend meetings and join board members in their post- meeting discussions over pizza."

"Other board members say they want to know if Oltmans used his relationship with Nichols to influence her vote."

"Nichols said she remained independent of Oltmans' influence, casting only one vote at his specific request. That was to allow the Omaha Public Power District to build a high-voltage power line along the Keystone Trail."

"Hers was the swing vote that would have allowed the project to go forward had the utility not changed its mind."


After Oltmans was fired the State of Nebraska audited the NRD records. Among their findings, was:

"The organization's procedures were definitely lax, audit officials said. Expense records were incomplete, and taxable- expense-income rules set down by the IRS were violated. The NRD, State Auditor Kate Witek said, was not unique among government agencies in suffering from such accounting problems."

'The investigation was instigated by NRD board members after the district's former executive director, Steve Oltmans, was found to be having an affair with former board member Barb Nichols. Questions were raised about his expense accounts. Oltmans was fired '

'Board Chairman Jim Thompson rightly characterized the audit findings as minor, though the board already has wisely revised its policies to prevent similar problems in the future
Perhaps board members can now begin to put this distasteful episode behind them. The whole incident has tarnished the NRD's image and dented its credibility. For many years, its reputation was outstanding."


The implications for the board's most important projects, among them a controversial proposal for up to 29 dams in the Papio Creek watershed to prevent downstream flooding, are uncertain. Opponents of the dam project are likely to seize on the accounting errors as a reason to distrust the board's decisions and question its word.

The NRD is facing a critical time as it tries to initiate plans for the future of flood control in the Omaha metropolitan area. For the good of the community, it should work hard to overcome the mistakes of the past."

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

steve oltmans was completely and absolutely dedicated to his work. This director HOUNDED him relentlessly. Steve's private life should be left out of the political arena. He is a hard working dedicated man

Anonymous said...

Who are you kidding?? Steve Oltmans had been involved with "the director" several years before, and at least 2 years after she served a term as the best director the Papio NRD has ever had. The state audit of oltmans' cell phone records alone prove who was 'hounding' whom. 20% of his cell phone time/usage (not counting his office phone) was allocated to calls to Ms. Nichols. Oltmans is an egotistical control freak who believes he is entitled to privilege, including misuse of tax payer money for his personal agendas.

Anonymous said...

Steve Oltmans is completely and absolutely dedicated only to HIMSELF. His own colleagues call him "little Hitler." It is no wonder Suttle (D) named Oltmans (R) on his team. Just like another “joint chief-of-staff" was never named (to replace Samp). Oltmans wouldn’t allow anything to stand in his way for SOLE POWER to run things his way. Steve Oltmans' private life IS his political life. Recall Suttle and get Oltmans out too.