Group asks for city manager's removal

Matt Brower's annual review is Tuesday
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Know and Go

What: Lincoln City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Third floor meeting room, Lincoln City Hall, 600 Sixth St.

Members of the L.I.F.T. Group – or unified to lifting Lincoln to new heights through Integrity, Financial responsibility and total Transparency – have asked for the removal of Lincoln City Manager Matt Brower, either through his resignation or termination.

Brower’s annual employee evaluation is scheduled to take place during the City Council’s scheduled 4 p.m. closed session Tuesday. The City Council typically considers employee issues and legal matters during closed session meetings immediately before the public meetings.

In a letter dated Feb. 6, which Mayor Stan Nader said was distributed to all five City Council members as well as the city manager and city attorney Kristine Mollenkopf, the L.I.F.T. Group describes Brower’s handling of the water-rate lawsuit and refunds as “dismal and appalling.”

Nader and City Councilman Peter Gilbert both confirmed they had read the letter.

“It got my attention,” Nader said. “And I take the L.I.F.T. Group seriously about what they’re asking for.”

Gilbert said the council gets similar letters regularly.

“It falls into the area of personnel and, as much as you’d like to share your feelings, we are required by law to only address those issues privately,” Gilbert said. “I don’t feel like I can comment on this outside of executive session.”

The L.I.F.T. Group, in the letter, also describes Brower’s water-rate dispute management strategy as “obfuscate, misrepresent and skew the water fund balances in an attempt to limit the amount of water rate refunds owed to the City of Lincoln ratepayers.” In the letter, the group calls for Brower to immediately submit his resignation.

A call to Brower was not returned as of The News Messenger’s press time. However, in a Jan. 25 Lincoln News Messenger article, Brower denied manipulating numbers related to the city’s water operations and called the allegations “absurd.”

“I have worked my entire career to earn the trust of those I work for and work with and violating that trust is not an option,” Brower said. “To think I would sacrifice my career, livelihood and integrity to manipulate numbers and to suggest we don’t have enough money for credits is absurd.”

The Feb. 6 letter was accompanied by a list of the L.I.F.T. Groups’ list of priorities, which include:

  • An additional $3 million in water-rate refunds to come from the city’s Capital Improvement Project Fund No. 711. This would refund money going back to Jan. 1, 2014 and the group suggests it be in the form of utility bill credits for all residents.
  • A refund of $4 million to come out of the city’s General Fund and various Lighting and Landscape Districts to account for so-called water loss going back to Jan. 1, 2014. This refund is also suggested to be issued in the form of utility bill credits for all residents.
  • Formation of a five-member Utility Rate Advisory Board to be made up of city treasurer Gerry Harner, a representative from the business community and three at-large members.