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Nebraska attorney general to explore whether state was a victim of fraud in Saint Francis contract

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by Paul Hammel, Kansas Reflector
September 2, 2022

LINCOLN — Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson indicated Friday he will evaluate the state’s legal options in pursuing funds that may have been fraudulently spent via the state’s contract with a Kansas foster care provider.

Peterson responded to a request by state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh to explore whether Saint Francis Ministries defrauded the State of Nebraska during its failed child welfare contract.

The state severed its contract with Saint Francis in December 2021, after the organization failed to fulfill its obligations to 2,500 foster children it oversaw in eastern Nebraska. The failure came despite an additional $110 million in emergency funding from the state.

The request Thursday by Cavanaugh, who has led criticism of the contract with Kansas-based Saint Francis, comes on the heels of revelations by Kansas Reflector.

Kansas Reflector recently reported the FBI moved to seize assets of a subcontractor of Saint Francis, WMK Research, and its owner, William Whymark, after it was discovered that Whymark had submitted millions of dollars of fraudulent invoices to Saint Francis. The invoices inflated Whymark’s expenses as well as the information technology work he claimed to have performed.

Cavanaugh said Nebraska, in the interest of its taxpayers, needs to explore if it was also a victim of fraud and whether it should be pursuing reimbursement of funds it spent.

The senator said she appreciated the response from the attorney general.

“They gave me a response fairly quickly,” Cavanaugh said Friday. “I’m hopeful that means they agree that there’s something worth looking into.”

A spokeswoman for Peterson declined to comment on Thursday.

But in an email to Cavanaugh on Friday, Peterson said he would “sit down with a team of lawyers to evaluate our legal options” based on the recent information.

Cavanaugh said it’s particularly important that the Attorney General’s Office explore this issue before Peterson, who did not seek reelection, leaves office in January.

Saint Francis, the largest foster care provider in Kansas, has sued its former leadership, alleging they hid the misspending of millions of dollars from its board of directors.

Federal investigators, in court documents, have identified nearly $11 million in billing to Sant Francis as probably fraudulent.

Saint Francis Ministries has taken issue with an Aug. 12 story by Kansas Reflector, calling portions of it “inaccurate” and “false.” But Saint Francis would not, when asked, identify specific statements in question.

This story was produced by Nebraska Examiner, an affiliate of States Newsroom.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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