Former North Platte Sen. Mike Groene resigned from the Legislature this week amid news reports that he took inappropriate photographs of a female legislative staffer. In a letter to Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, Groene stated that his resignation was effective at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 21.
Groene reportedly took photographs of his former staff member without her permission, which she later discovered on his laptop during the course of her office duties. The staff member subsequently filed a workplace harassment complaint with the Executive Board, the administrative arm of the Legislature.
Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, chairperson of the Executive Board, spoke with senators when the Legislature convened Feb. 22 regarding the ongoing harassment investigation. He said the process laid out in the Legislature’s workplace harassment policy has been followed and allows for a formal investigation if an informal resolution is not agreeable to the complainant.
Hughes said the staffer informed him Feb. 18 that an informal resolution was not acceptable and that, as a result, a three-member special panel of state senators has been empowered to conduct a formal examination of the complaint with the help of an outside investigator.
“This investigation will be thorough, prompt [and] will continue to protect the complainant’s rights while also ensuring the Legislature and the public has confidence in our process,” he said. “I want to stress that if the panel uncovers any evidence of any potential criminal activity, that information will be referred to the attorney general’s office for appropriate action.”
Groene represented Legislative District 42 since he was first elected in 2014. He was re-elected in 2018 and was scheduled to be term-limited in January 2023. He served as chairperson of the Education Committee from 2017 until he was defeated in a close race against Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz in 2021.
Hilgers said other senators will have the option to take over sponsorship of any of Groene’s bills introduced this session.
Gov. Pete Ricketts is responsible for appointing an individual to fill Groene’s seat for the remainder of the legislative session. LD42 contains all of Hooker, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson and Thompson counties and part of Perkins County. If interested in retaining the seat, an appointee would have to file to run in the 2022 general election.
Eligible applicants must have lived in the district for at least one full year, be registered to vote and be at least 21 years old.