Chris Rizo Apr. 28, 2008, 1:29pm
LINCOLN, Neb. (Legal Newsline)-Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning's failure to pursue cases on behalf illegal immigrants has cost the Cornhusker State federal funding aimed at fighting discrimination, an official said Monday.
Ann Hobbs, executive director of the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission, told Legal Newsline the commission has essentially lost $240,000 in annual funding it received for investigating discrimination complaints-all because of the attorney general's stance against illegal immigration.
"Whenever people's personal opinions begin to trump state and federal law you can almost guarantee you're going to have a big mess," she said in a telephone interview.
Among other things, the commission investigates fair housing complaints, alleged job discrimination and public accommodation cases.
Last week, Bruning asked fellow Republican state Treasurer Shane Osborn not to pay the California law firm of Brancart and Brancart to pursue discrimination cases on behalf of the commission.
"The attorney general usually acts as counsel to state agencies, but clearly we have a conflict of interest in this situation," Hobbs said.
"This is a situation where we could all benefit from a neutral party reviewing the law and issuing a finding on how to move forward."
Bruning was quoted by the Omaha World-Herald as saying that the conflict between him and the commission was "manufactured by them."
As for hiring an outside law firm, he said that would be "an extreme waste of tax dollars."
The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission has been asked by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to return to the federal government the 26 housing and other discrimination cases pending in their office, Hobbs said.
The conflict between her office and Bruning boiled over recently when the attorney general said the state should consider shutting down the commission entirely.
He also said taxpayer money shouldn't be used to pursue a case on behalf of an illegal immigrant, even if there was a legitimate complaint.
"To come straight out and advertise to the media that you never intend to follow your own state law has caused HUD some grief," Hobbs said.
She said the commission had forwarded 41 discrimination cases to Bruning's office, but only one was prosecuted and none has gone to trial.
Bruning's office, however, has said it has actually pursued 22 of the 58 cases it has received from the commission.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at email@example.com.