The state auditor alleges fraud in payments from the Southeastern Nebraska Development District to a food truck operation
LINCOLN — State Auditor Mike Foley is requesting a criminal investigation into the transfer of nearly $220,000 from the Southeastern Nebraska Development Agency to a food truck operated by the husband of the agency’s director.
In a report Monday, the auditor’s office detailed 200 credit card and check payments made to Arley’s food truck from December 2015 through November 2022 while Bobby Mintz was serving as executive director of Five Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Inc.
A food truck run by the manager’s husband
The food truck, based in Steinauer, was run by Mintz’s husband.
Foley said he could not find any services provided to Five Rivers to justify the payments, nor how the payments fit into the nonprofit’s mission, which focused on improving economic and cultural opportunities in southeastern Nebraska.
RC&D was established in 1993 for Otoe, Nemaha, Richardson, Johnson, Pawnee, Gage, Jefferson, and Saline counties and is funded primarily through state environmental and agricultural grants.
Foley called the payments “outrageous” and asked the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office and local prosecutors to conduct a criminal investigation.
“It is a blatant violation of public trust,” he added.
Foley also questioned whether Five Rivers board members exercised appropriate oversight over spending by its CEO.
Emails and phone messages sent to Meints and Arley’s were not immediately returned Monday morning.
Five Rivers RC&D dissolved in July, according to the audit. A bank statement showed that the agency had no funds at the end of 2022.
One of the agency’s main funding sources was the Nebraska Environmental Fund, which approved more than $182,000 in grants for Five Rivers from 2020-2022.
However, the fund began to raise questions about Five Rivers’ operations after approving more than $600,000 in additional grants in April 2022 for the grassland project, and for household hazardous waste and electronics collections.
Keeping “dirty” records.
Among the questions the Trust asked in a June 2022 monitoring review were why Five Rivers’ nonprofit status was administratively dissolved by the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office and why an older (2017) IRS nonprofit tax form was included in the 2022 grant application.
Ultimately, the Environmental Fund refused to repay the grants to Five Rivers.
The state auditor’s office described Five Rivers’ recordkeeping and accounting process as “extremely sloppy and disheveled.”
As a result, the agency was charged thousands of dollars in credit card fees, interest payments and bank overdraft fees during the period examined, according to the audit.
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