Nonprofit Governance Becomes an Issue in Nebraska Legislative Race

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November 5, 2016; Omaha World-Herald

In a different twist on the intersection of nonprofits and politics, the controversy over the management of Goodwill Industries in Omaha has spilled over into a race for a seat in the Nebraska legislature.

In that race, candidate Jill Brown is challenging her opponent’s oversight of the nonprofit when he served on its board of directors. Fellow Democrat Justin Wayne served on the local Goodwill board as recently as 2013.

In 2014, Goodwill’s CEO, Frank McGree, received a total compensation of $933,444, according to federal tax records detailed in an investigation this fall by the Omaha World-Herald. The paper’s investigation, which ignited the controversy, also found that Goodwill Omaha paid 13 top employees at least $100,000 that year—high wages for that part of the U.S. The CEO eventually resigned.

Brown alleged in a campaign mailer that “Justin Wayne helped executives plunder Goodwill” and that “Justin Wayne oversaw the Goodwill disaster.”

“If that’s the leadership style that my opponent has, then it’s something voters need to know,” Brown told the paper.

Wayne, who served for three years on the nonprofit’s board, told the World-Herald that he didn’t recall approving a contract or the compensation for the CEO, insisting that at one meeting he had objected to the pay and asked tough questions about it. He added that shortly afterwards, he was taken off the board. Not surprisingly, Wayne called the mailer “inaccurate and misleading.”

The issue is but one in a contentious and competitive local legislative race.—Larry Kaplan