State Audit Of State Fair Sent To Authorities

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) – The Nebraska State Auditor’s Office says an audit of the Nebraska State Fair found that former chief of finance and administration Brandon Kopke collected nearly $150,000 last year through undocumented payments to a company he created.

Because of possible violations of state law, the audit report was sent to Attorney General Doug Peterson, the Nebraska State Patrol, and the Hall County Attorney’s office as well as the IRS and the state Department of Revenue.

The audit of the fair found two checks totaling over $149,000 made out to RKBB Enterprises Inc, created by Kopke in May of last year. He resigned in November after telling board members the fair was headed for bankruptcy.

Auditors say they identified the questionable payments during a review of the fair’s spending and couldn’t find any invoices for the payments or any connection to any services provided for the fair.

The audit also questioned credit card transactions made by Kopke between Nov 2018 and Nov 2019 totaling nearly $47,000 and what it calls “questionable credit card transactions by former Executive Director Lori Cox totaling almost $138,000 between August 2018 and Dec 2019.

Fair Board Chair Beth Smith defends Cox, who resigned for health reasons earlier this year, pointing out she was the one who uncovered the finance issues in February – adding that the Audtor’s office didn’t want to take the case originally and did so only after pressure from the Fair Board, news stories, and the public.

Smith points out that the Fair Board has taken steps to prevent such issues in the future, including adopting a new procurement policy and following Cox with Bill Ogg, who has extensive budgeting experience.

Smith says Ogg and the board have already adopted a number of new policies tightening bookkeeping and expenditure rules, and are working on an RFP for an outside accounting firm.