Nebraska State Fair officials react to state audit

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 6:23 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Earlier this week the state auditor’s office announced its findings in the investigation of the Nebraska State Fair’s finances. It unveiled potential misuse of funds and now the fair board is working to make sure it never happens again.

With a new executive director in place new policies have already begun to protect the fair's funds. The former director has also voiced her frustrations with her name being added to the report.

The state audit outlined numerous charges to credit cards and funds being given to an accused fake company. The former Chief Financial Officer Patrick Kopke declared the fair was going bankrupt which many on the board said is impossible. With the report of Kopke making personal charges on the fair’s dime, department heads now must request to make purchases and explain the purpose beforehand.

“That is part of the review processes of all purchases,” Executive Director Bill Ogg said. “Certainly the number of cards and the permissiveness of what the cards are used for have been detailed.”

Also mentioned in the report was Former Executive Director Lori Cox. She said she has explanations for most of the purchases and said they did benefit the fair. Cox said Kopke also had a copy of her card and potentially misused it. She shared her frustrations with the auditors for not asking her for more information.

“We talked a lot about the credit cards. We already made discovery after discovery of really suspect charges both to my credit card and to Patrick’s that were really bothering me and I wanted to get to the bottom of it,” Cox said. “I said if you have any questions please call me and they never did.”

Cox said she is disgusted the CFO potentially took advantage of the fair. Now the board requires two signatures on checks larger than $5,000 and sticking close to the budget.

“Risk is part of the business but managing that risk and balancing the amount that you could lose versus the potential gain I think that’s where some experience will help us go forward,” Ogg said.

With 2020 a lean revenue year, Ogg hopes to implement more financial controls in the next fair.

There have been no criminal charges presented for the findings in the audit. The case is now being handled by the Nebraska State Patrol, Hall County Attorney, and the state Attorney General’s office.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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