The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Rob Langrell
Publisher of the Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Hehnke fired by City of Sidney

Public services director cited in '14, but incident was covered up by police chief


John Hehnke, the City of Sidney's embattled public services director, was fired Tuesday.

Hehnke, a 10-year city employee who was at the center of a controversial decision that also involved Sidney Police Chief B.J. Wilkinson, was dismissed by City Manager Gary Person.

"He was let go yesterday," Person said. "It was a decision that was made regarding personnel and I can't say much more.

"I don't want to speak on behalf of the mayor or [city] council, but I'm sure some of it will be addressed at Tuesday's meeting."

The Sidney City Council holds its next regularly scheduled meeting this Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at City Hall.

The council held a budget workshop on Monday night, and met in executive session for three hours that evening. It was the fourth time in the past month that the council had met in executive session. Under Nebraska statutes, discussion in executive sessions are privileged.

The city has retained attorney Howard Olsen Jr., a lawyer at Simmons Olsen Law Firm in Scottsbluff, to provide input on both Hehnke's and Wilkinson's employment status. Sidney City Attorney J. Leef recused herself, citing a conflict of interest.

Mayor Mark Nienhueser, reached by phone Wednesday morning in Indiana where he was traveling on business, confirmed that Hehnke had been fired, but said he couldn't say much about the decision on the advice of Olsen.

"According to our attorney, I can't say anything about this matter," Nienhueser said. "We will address these personnel issues at Tuesday's meeting. We'll discuss it then.

"It feels a little silly, but we have to follow the legal procedures on this stuff," Nienhueser said.

Hehnke could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The controversy surrounding Hehnke and Wilkinson dates back almost 19 months.

On Jan. 29, 2014, a Sidney Police officer responded to a residence for a report of suspicious activity. The resident told police her former boyfriend, Hehnke, had been outside her house looking in the windows.

After interviewing Hehnke, the officer issued him a citation. However, Wilkinson removed that citation and never sent the case to the Cheyenne County Attorney's Office.

Earlier this year, the Nebraska State Patrol began an investigation into the incident and charges were brought against both Hehnke and Wilkinson.

In April, Hehnke pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace and paid a $300 fine.

File Photo - The Sidney Sun-Telegraph

John Hehnke

Last month, Wilkinson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing government operations and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. He has since filed an appeal, which is due to be heard in court Sept. 28. He is currently on paid administrative leave.

In an interview with the NSP, Wilkinson said he removed the citation for the "benefit of the city and the benefit of the man's career."

As public services director, Henke was responsible for the oversight, operations and budgets of the various public works departments for the city. That included street, water, sanitary sewer, wastewater treatment facility, solid waste/landfill, electric distribution, electric power plant, parks and cemetery.

Hehnke was hired in 2005 after spending 11 years as an engineering technician with M.C. Schaff and Associates.


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