Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy resigned Saturday morning, effective immediately. Gov. Dave Heinman announced Sheehy’s resignation in a hastily called news conference Saturday morning.
Although Heineman said only that the resignation followed disclosures made in a public records request, multiple media outlets reported that it involved improper personal calls on his state-issued cell phone.
The Omaha World-Herald, which had filed the public records requests, says he used the phone to make about 2,000 late-night telephone calls to women other than his wife, Connie. She filed for a divorce last July after nearly 29 years, stating that the marriage was “irretrievably broken.”
One of the women who received the calls from Sheehy is Bellevue emergency room doctor Dr Theresa Hatcher, who told The Associated Press they had a long-term relationship and that he’d told her they would marry one day.
Hatcher said she thought she “was the only one” for Sheehy, whom she’d met at an out-of-state gathering of emergency responders in 2008. The lieutenant governor heads the state’s emergency management efforts. His phone records show he talked to Hatcher on his state phone 367 times, mostly from 2009 through 2011.
The 53-year old Hatcher described driving to motels in towns Sheehy was visiting and long, sexually charged phone calls when he was on the road and unable to meet her. She said Sheehy broke off their relationship in spring 2011, but that they went through several reconciliations and break-ups before ending things for good last June…a month before Sheeny’s wife made her divorce filing.
The governor told reporters at the news conference he became aware of “new information” about Sheehy’s “decisions” this week, had a conversation with him, and accepted his resignation Saturday morning.
“I have trusted him and that trust was broken,” he said. “As public officials we’re held to a higher standard, rightly so. That trust was broken and he resigned.” Heineman called the situation one of the biggest disappointments in his life, saying that it left him with a knot in his stomach.
The governor’s office is investigating whether Sheehy will need to reimburse the state for the questioned phone calls, but Heineman said he “can’t imagine” that Attorney General Jon Bruning would decide to pursue that course.
Heineman says he plans to begin the search to replace Sheehy on Monday and plans to appoint a new lieutenant governor in the coming weeks. If something where to happen to Heineman before then, Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams would become governor.
The 53-year-old Sheehy, a former Hastings mayor, was Heineman’s pick as Lt Governor in 2005 after Heineman left that post to become governor when Mike Johanns resigned to become Secretary of Agriculture for President George Bush.
He won election twice as Heineman’s running mate and was considered the overwhelming favorite to succeed him in next year’s governor’s race…earning his endorsement early last year. Heineman now says he would no longer support Sheehy if he continues his campaign.
Sheehy’s resignation and its obvious impact on the governor’s race drew a not-unexpected response from Nebraska Democratic Party Chairman Vince Powers.
Powers said it demonstrates that “when party has too much power for too long, corruption, arrogance and scandal occur.” He rhetorically asks “what other scandals are waiting to be uncovered?”, and predicts “the people of Nebraska will elect a Democrat as governor in 2014 to clean up the statehouse.”