As of the publication of this article, Nebraska’s state tourism director, Kathy McKillip, still has her job — although scores of public officials have called for her dismissal or resignation. At issue is the way McKillip has managed, or mismanaged, spending within the tourism commission, with most attention focused on large payments made to the commission’s agency of record, Omaha-based Bailey Lauerman.
Nebraska Tourism Commission’s financial mess triggered a state audit of its operations. In releasing the report on April 29, 2016, State Auditor Charlie Janssen called the DMO “a rogue agency.” The audit found spending to be over budget by $4.4 million during the past three years. It also found the tourism commission effectively misused taxpayer money by both failing to properly track expenses related to Bailey Lauerman’s campaigns and expensing items unrelated to production requirements…like booze and cigarettes.
From the 79-page audit:
> More than $350 of one amount requested by Bailey Lauerman “was for alcohol and cigarette purchases. Included were charges for several bottles of wine, three bottles of Tanqueray Gin, a bottle of Crown Royal Canadian whisky, multiple packs of Coors beer cans, a box of Marlboro Gold Pack 100’s (cigarettes), and a significant amount of other alcohol purchased during meals while on the shoot.”
> $18,000 was spent to help one commission employee move from Sidney to Kearney (a three-hour drive).
> $44,000 was spent for a 90-minute speech by “happiness researcher” Shawn Achor.
> Kathy McKillip’s daughter was hired to star in a photo shoot tied to the campaign.
> Bailey Lauerman spent “more than $2,500 on more than 35 occasions” to buy dinners for McKillip, her husband and other state officials and their family members; these expenditures would appear to go against regulations forbidding public employees from accepting gifts from vendors.
For last week’s article on Omaha.com addressing the state audit of the Nebraska Tourism Commission, click here.