By Deena Winter and Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
Updated Saturday 6:35 p.m.
LINCOLN — Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy has resigned effective immediately, shaking up the 2014 governor’s race since Sheehy is the leading Republican running.
Gov. Dave Heineman announced Sheehy’s resignation in a rare Saturday press conference without giving a reason for the resignation other than to say it’s “personal” and that reporters would have to talk to Sheehy about it. Sheehy has not returned a phone call seeking comment.
“As public officials we’re held to a higher standard, rightly so,” the governor said. “That trust was broken and he resigned.”
State documents obtained by Nebraska Watchdog show Sheehy used his state cell phone to make hundreds of personal calls to women that raised questions about his judgment. His phone records indicate he made phone calls to several women all hours of the day in recent years. It is against state law to use public resources for private use, outside of nominal use.
Sheehy’s wife filed for divorce from him in July 2012 after a 28-year marriage.
Heineman said late Friday he became aware of “new information” about Sheehy’s “decisions,” had a conversation with him and accepted his resignation Saturday morning.
“I have trusted him and that trust was broken,” he said.
The governor said he will begin the process of finding a replacement for Sheehy on Monday.
“He’s resigned and I’ve accepted it and we’re moving forward,” Heineman said.
Heineman will be term-limited out of office in 2015, and Sheehy was the frontrunner to succeed him after former Speaker Mike Flood dropped out of the governor’s race in December after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The governor said he doubts Sheehy will continue his campaign for governor, but if he does, he wouldn’t support him.
Heineman said the situation was one of the biggest disappointments in his life and left him with a knot in his stomach.
“I’m deeply disappointed,” Heineman said. “He’s done a lot of good things for the state. But that trust was broken and he’s resigned.”
Asked whether legal charges might be warranted, the governor said, “That would be up to the attorney general but I can’t imagine that would be the circumstance.”
A possible Democratic contender for governor, Chuck Hassebrook, released the following statement: “This is sad. For the sake of our children, we urgently need role models of true family values, especially among our leaders, because American kids are paying a high price for family break down. I recognize that no human is without failing. So I wish Rick Sheehy and his family the best as they seek to heal from this disappointing episode.”
The head of the Nebraska Democratic Party, Vince Powers, said Sheehy’s resignation demonstrates that “when party has too much power for too long, corruption, arrogance and scandal occur.”
“The people of Nebraska will elect a Democrat as governor in 2014 to clean up the statehouse,” Powers said. “What other scandals are waiting to be uncovered?”
Sheehy is the former mayor of Hastings who was tapped to be Heineman’s second-in-command in 2005. In 2006, he and Gov. Heineman were elected to their first full term in office and were re-elected to a second term in 2010.
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