Nebraska State Capitol administrator on paid leave amid probe into altercation

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The Nebraska State Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. (By Rebecca S. Gratz)

LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) – The chief defender of preserving the historic properties of the Nebraska State Capitol is being accused of getting too defensive.

Bob Ripley, the longtime administrator of the Capitol, is on paid leave pending an investigation into an altercation prior to Saturday’s annual Statehood Day Dinner.

A spokesman with the Nebraska State Patrol confirmed that an investigation was underway after a report was filed Saturday morning with Capitol security about an “altercation” that occurred as crews were setting up for the banquet.

No citations have been issued at this time, according to Cody Thomas, the patrol’s spokesman.

The Governor’s Office confirmed Thursday that Ripley, who has worked for more than 40 years on preserving the Capitol, had been suspended with pay pending the completion of the probe.

Spokeswoman Laura Strimple said she could make no further comment.

The Statehood Day Dinner, which draws about 350 people and is sponsored by the Nebraskaland Foundation, is the only time the State Capitol is used for a banquet.

Tables are installed in the ornate Rotunda and down hallways in the building, which is a National Historic Landmark and filled with artwork that interprets the state’s history.

The banquet is a fundraiser for the Nebraskaland Foundation, which fetes outstanding Nebraskans at the event.

The owner of the rental firm providing dishes, linens and other supplies for the dinner, Gretchen Law of AAA Enterprises, said that her staff has “never been disrespectful” of the Capitol, but she said one of her employees was treated rudely during the set-up process.

“It’s bizarre,” Law said. “(He) thought he was better than God. He thought he had a right to touch one of my employees.”

A spokeswoman with the Nebraska Capitol Commission said she could not comment about the incident. Because the case is under investigation, Thomas said he could not release details about what allegedly happened.

Grease spots could be seen Thursday in one area of the building used for dishing up food for the event, and a smudge-like streak ran across one of the ornate mosaics on the floor — the one depicted in the state’s new license plate.

An official with the Nebraskaland Foundation did not respond immediately to a message seeking comment.

Former Secretary of State Allen Beermann, a former longtime organizer of the banquet, expressed surprise when asked about Ripley’s suspension.

“He’s always been very careful and very protective of the Capitol, and I can’t fault him for that,” Beermann said. “(But) once you ruin it, it’s ruined.”

Categories: Capitol News, Nebraska News, News