Vance, officials fined for appearance in Herbster ad


Seward County Sheriff Mike Vance has been fined $1,000 for wearing his uniform in a political campaign ad which also featured three other law enforcement officials in uniform last spring.

Action was taken March 3 by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission after a complaint was filed against Vance and the others for appearing in a television ad in uniform endorsing gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster.

According to the NADC, Lincoln resident Cynthia Hartley filed the complaints against Vance, Capt. Josh Gillespie of the York County Sheriff’s Department and Lincoln County Sheriff Jerome Kramer after her first complaint on March 22, 2022, resulted in York County Sheriff Paul Vrbka being fined $1,000 in a civil penalty for the same violation.

Hartley claimed it was against the law for the officials to campaign while in uniform.

Former Nebraska State Patrol Col. Tom Nesbitt also appeared in the ad, but not in uniform.

The Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act prohibits a person from engaging in campaign activities using public resources. The law enforcement officials’ badges and uniforms, based on a 1994 opinion of the commission, are considered public resources since they are paid for in part by tax dollars.

The ad aired on Nebraska TV stations in February and March of last year but was pulled by Herbster’s campaign after Hartley’s initial complaint.

The penalty for the violation carries a fine of up to $5,000, but the NADC unanimously agreed to lower each of their fines to $1,000 because of their willingness to resolve the issue.

In the agreements, the officials told the commission they didn’t know they were out of compliance with the statute.

“The Respondent states that it was not his intent to violate the NPADA as alleged, and had he known that this would constitute a possible violation of the NPADA, he would not have agreed to appear in the campaign advertisement,” the agreements stated.

Statute says it is OK for public officials and employees to participate in election activities off-the-clock and not using taxpayer resources. They can use photos of themselves in uniform in brochures and flyers.