Gov. Pete Ricketts swearing in Mike Jacobson, overlaid with the text
Gov. Pete Ricketts swears Mike Jacobson into the legislature. Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor Pete Ricketts.

Feb. 28: Groene replacement, UNL fraternities and baby giraffe

Gov. Ricketts appoints new senator to replace Mike Groene

As of Feb. 22, the Nebraska State Patrol has been investigating allegations that former North Platte Sen. Mike Groene took sexually inappropriate photos of a legislative aide. Two days after Groene submitted his resignation to Gov. Pete Ricketts, the governor appointed Micheal “Mike” Jacobson to fill the District 42 vacancy. “Mike is a Nebraska native who exemplifies our state’s entrepreneurialism and hard work,” Ricketts said in a news release. Jacobson was sworn in directly after Rickett’s Feb. 23 announcement. “It is an honor to represent the citizens of District 42 in the Legislature,” Jacobson said. “I share Nebraska’s traditional values, work ethic, and entrepreneurial spirit. As a State Senator, I’ll advocate for limited government and conservative fiscal policy.”

Fiji fraternity suing UNL administrators

Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji), an inactive fraternity at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is suing two UNL administrators– Chancellor Ronnie Green and Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards Andrea Barefield– in federal court for allegedly violating member’s rights to free speech and due process. The fraternity was suspended in 2017 for reckless alcohol use and sexually inappropriate behavior, following an investigation into members shouting sexually harassing comments to participants during a women’s march. The suspension was lifted in early 2021. In August of 2021, students protested the fraternity following sexual assault allegations. Soon after, it was suspended for alcohol use violations. A complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Feb. 18 alleges the fraternity was retaliated against for its members’ political views and speech in support of former President Donald Trump. The lawsuit alleges the fraternity and its members suffered from investigations, suspensions and false and misleading public statements made by university officials.

Lincoln Children’s Zoo welcomes first baby giraffe: Mosi

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo welcomed the public Feb. 23 to see its first baby giraffe, Mosi, whose name means “the first” in Swahili. Giraffe mom Zawadi gave birth to the female reticulated giraffe on Jan. 29, and Mosi was already standing within the first hour of birth and measured 5 feet, 5 inches and 130 pounds, according to the zoo. Mosi is in the giraffe barn, though the zoo stated she may take periodic breaks throughout the day.

UNL places fraternity on probation

The Delta Upsilon Fraternity at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was suspended Feb. 23 due to a student conduct issue. The university said it will not go into specifics. The fraternity is on probation for the next four years and will not be recognized as university housing for those four years.

Lincoln COVID Risk Dial falls to low orange

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department announced Feb. 23 that the COVID-19 Risk Dial has moved from elevated orange to low orange. All areas of orange indicate high risk. “We’re on the right track and continue to see significant improvement. The pandemic is not over, but each week we’re making progress and getting our community to a better place,” LLCHD Health Director Pat Lopez said. The Risk Dial has not been at low orange since November of 2021.

Lincoln man pleads guilty to distributing cocaine laced with fentanyl that led to six overdoses

At a video hearing Feb. 18, Brandon T. Davis of Lincoln pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing a mixture of cocaine and fentanyl causing serious bodily injury. The first instance allegedly occurred Aug. 13 when two people overdosed, and the second was three days later when four people overdosed. All six individuals survived. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid and, when it is mixed with illicit drugs, even an amount of it as small as a grain of sand can cause an overdose. Davis will be sentenced in May and will face at least 25 years in federal prison.

Contributors: Zach Wendling, Ramey Vachal and Hanna Christensen