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Posted on: July 6, 2022

Judge finds removal of Sarpy County Treasurer was proper

Entrance to Sarpy County Courthouse's Administration Wing

District Court Judge Geoffrey C. Hall yesterday dismissed Brian Zuger’s request to overturn his removal from the office of Sarpy County Treasurer. 

 

The judge dismissed Zuger’s petition with prejudice and found that the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners provided him with appropriate due process and conducted “a fair and impartial hearing.”   

 

The “Board’s decision was reasonable and was supported by the testimony and exhibits that were received during the evidentiary hearing,” the court found, noting the “record contained several admissions by Mr. Zuger that he failed to carry out and comply with the duties of his office.”   

 

"It is apparent to this Court that the evidence received at the hearing does support a decision of removal that was rendered by the Board,” Judge Hall wrote. 

 

The Sarpy County Board removed Zuger from office on April 13, 2021. The decision came after the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts completed an attestation of the Treasurer’s Office that cited numerous deficiencies. 

 

The attestation, which analyzed the Treasurer’s compliance with his statutory obligations, found untimely and miscalculated tax distributions, deficiencies in balancing and reconciliation procedures and numerous other issues. The attestation did not find any missing funds.  

 

During an administrative hearing called by the board, the Commissioners found that several of the deficiencies cited in the attestation warranted Zuger’s removal from office. 

 

Nebraska Revised Statutes § 23-103 and 23-1603 specifically charge the County Board with the authority and responsibility to remove the Treasurer if the office holder “neglects or refuses to render any account or settlement required by law” or “fails or neglects to account for any balance due the state, county, township, school district, or any other municipal subdivision, or is guilty of other misconduct in office.” 

 

Following Zuger’s removal, the Board appointed Trace Jones to serve as Interim Sarpy County Treasurer. After an open application and interview process, the Board announced its decision to appoint Jones as the new Sarpy County Treasurer. His permanent appointment has been on hold since Zuger filed the petition to challenge his removal.  

 

Following yesterday’s dismissal, the Board will move forward with Jones’ appointment. 

 

“Trace Jones has made sweeping improvements to the Treasurer’s Office, which include changing policies and procedures to ensure compliance with state statutes and regulations, including those cited in the State Auditor’s attestation of the office during Brian Zuger’s time in office,” Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly said. “Under Trace’s leadership, the Treasurer’s Office is focused on ensuring all payments due to other entities are distributed as prescribed in Nebraska State Statute.” 

 

In December of 2021, several school districts filed a lawsuit against the Treasurer’s Office for one of the deficiencies noted in the attestation. Because of procedural requirements, the suit names Interim Treasurer Jones as a party to the lawsuit, however, it pertains to incorrect PILOT distributions made for 2018, 2019 and 2020, years when Zuger was responsible for the distribution. That case remains pending as the courts determine how to move forward.  

 

“The Board has complete confidence in Trace and his leadership, and we know the Treasurer’s Office is in good hands,” Sarpy County Commissioner Angi Burmeister said. “Trace is committed to serving Sarpy County and running an office that Sarpy County taxpayers can trust, and I look forward to continuing to work with him.”  

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