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State agency dismisses complaint against Nebraska sheriff concerning marijuana petition challenge
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State agency dismisses complaint against Nebraska sheriff concerning marijuana petition challenge

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The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission has dismissed a complaint filed against Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner related to his successful challenge of the medical marijuana petition drive.

Human remains found

Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner gives an update on human remains found at Pawnee Lake on Thursday.

John Cartier, an attorney who worked with Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis, asked the commission in April to review whether Wagner violated state law by not disclosing who paid legal fees for the petition challenge.

Both Cartier and Wagner said the complaint had been dismissed.

State law requires elected officials to report any gift more than $100 in value on a Statement of Financial Interests, which is filed annually with the state office responsible for administering election laws.

Cartier said the commission found the legal fees for the challenge were not considered a gift because Wagner had not solicited the money.

Complaints made to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission are not made public unless the subject of the complaint invokes the right to do so or the commission enters an order finding a violation occurred, said Executive Director Frank Daley.

The commission has not entered an order finding that Wagner violated the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act, he said.

Wagner became the challenger to the ballot initiative — which was signed by 196,000 Nebraskans — after Lincoln attorney Mark Fahleson pointed out the measure appeared to violate the state's single-subject rule.

The longtime sheriff told the Journal Star in September 2020 while his name was listed on the lawsuit, he wasn't aware of who paid for it.

Fahleson said he approached Wagner because he knew the sheriff was an opponent of marijuana legalization. However, Fahleson declined to say who paid for the challenge, citing attorney-client privilege, but said that no tax dollars were spent on the litigation.

In a 5-2 decision in September 2020, the Nebraska Supreme Court determined the initiative violated the state's single-subject rule, and it was removed from the November ballot.

During this legislative session, opponents mounted a successful filibuster against Sen. Anna Wishart’s bill to legalize medical cannabis, and another petition drive is underway.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist

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