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Pat McPherson case spotlights gap in state’s recall laws

By   /   January 29, 2015  /   No Comments

Part 8 of 10 in the series Pat McPherson saga

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

Who knew?

Even many of those who live and die at the ballot box were stunned to find out that a member of the State Board of Education, in this case Republican Pat McPherson, can’t be recalled.

McPherson holds a get-out-of-jail-free card, courtesy of the Nebraska Constitution, that has some wondering if it’s time for an upgrade.

Courtesy Photo

Pat McPherson, State Board of Education

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” said former State Sen. Bill Avery, who headed up the Legislature’s Government Committee the past several years.

Avery tells Nebraska Watchdog any elected official in the state—not just local officials— should be subject to a recall.

But according to the state constitution, any office created by the constitution, so called “constitutional officers”—members of the state board of education, governor, attorney general, state legislators, you get the idea— “may only be removed by impeachment.”

Few, if any, constitutional legal eagles have stepped forward to argue for McPherson’s impeachment—his actions apparently fall short of, among other things, “willful neglect of duty.”

McPherson founded and co-edited the blog, Objective Conservative, which called President Obama a “half-breed” a half-dozen times in recent years, including Jan. 12. He said he didn’t write or vet the offending posts and has ignored calls for his resignation from the governor, two U.S. senators and two congressmen — all fellow Republicans.

Nebraska Watchdog Photo

Former Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle successfully fought off a recall election in 2011. He lost his re-election in 2013.

The state board on Wednesday approved a resolution calling on McPherson to resign by a vote of 6-2, with McPherson and Glen Flint of Springfield opposing. Before the vote, McPherson read a statement saying he will not resign.

“While I understand the disruption this issue has created, I will not allow it to overturn an election,” he said.

When Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray learned McPherson could not be recalled, he was shocked and forced to look for some other punishment.

“Without a recall it’s incumbent on elected officials to step up,” said Gray, who pushed a council resolution Tuesday—all bark, no bite— demanding McPherson resign his state post. It passed 5-1: Rich Pahls voted no, Aimee Melton abstained.

Twenty states, including neighboring Kansas and Colorado, allow for the recall of state officials and it would take a constitutional amendment to change Nebraska’s rules.

During his eight years in the state senate, Avery said the idea to recall “constitutional officers”—which would include the governor and state senators—”never came up.”

Contact Joe Jordan at [email protected].

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday morning at 7:40, KLIN in Lincoln every Tuesday morning at 7:35 and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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Part of 10 in the series Pat McPherson saga


Joe formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.