By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
A state audit has flagged billing concerns in Hamilton County, but Surveyor Duane Katt says there's more to the story.
He's elected to do a part-time job that seems to take more than 40 hours a week.
Duane Katt also runs a private surveying business. Katt Surveying was under contract to also do work for the county.
Some feel the lines were blurred, as seen in a state audit.
"We're looking for answers to a lot of questions at the moment," County Commissioner John Thomas said.
Katt's attorney says there may have been some paperwork errors, and things could be more transparent. But he argues it's nothing that can't be corrected.
Attorney David Huston said, "I want to make it perfectly clear that Mr. Katt's never been accused of any malfeasance, wrongdoing, or criminal activity and in fact he hadn't committed any of these things."
That may be, but there's a perceived conflict of interest laid out in an audit that came following anonymous complaints.
Thomas, the county board chairman said, "It was prompted by citizen requests or more than one citizen request and I believe that was made way back in March of last year so the auditor spent time doing it, obviously they put work into getting the report together."
At the Hamilton County Commissioners regular meeting, Katt's attorney suggested it's a case of those in Lincoln looking down from an ivory tower.
"Sitting in Lincoln, Nebraska you can come up with an opinion," Huston said.
"I disagree. This is what I would consider a fact," commissioner Douglas Andersen said.
The audit finds $30,000 in expenses considered unreasonable.
Katt says there's no over-billing, in fact, he claims to be losing money "hand over fist."
Where the sides agree is that it's in the best interest of taxpayers to sort out their differences and improve the paperwork trail.
Huston, Katt's attorney said, "Our goal is to create a dialogue with the Hamilton County board so Mr. Katt can do the job he was elected to do."
"We hope to relieve this in a positive manner sometime in the near future. Still have a lot of questions to ask, and have answered and continue on with the process," Commissioner Thomas said.
State Auditor Mike Foley declined to comment beyond what was written in his report.
The board asked Katt to provide more documentation on bills submitted to the county, as they go point by point through the auditor's report. They took no further action.