State Sen. Mike Groene Agrees to Resign Amid Harassment Accusations

Feb. 18, 2022, 6 p.m. ·

Former Senator Mike Groene (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Former Senator Mike Groene (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, a gruff, outspoken champion of rural interests and a fiesty populist conservative on social issues, has agreed to resign from his post following reported accusations of workplace harassment.

Gov. Pete Ricketts confirmed in a statement the two spoke Friday afternoon and both agreed it was best for Groene to resign. The governor's office has not yet received a resignation letter, according to a spokesperson late Friday afternoon, and Groene said he would resign next week. Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers also said he has spoken to Groene, and confirmed his intention to resign.

Groene denies accusations he took inappropriate photos of a female legislative aide without her knowledge. Earlier Friday, the chairman of the Legislature’s Executive Board confirmed a complaint of workplace harassment has been received against a state senator. Dan Hughes, the chairman, said in a statement a complaint was received and an investigation was ongoing but he did not name the senator.

"I am not going to drag my wife, family and friends through the fight it would take to defend myself," Groene said in a text to Nebraska Public Media News. "I am resigning and dropping out of politics completely." Groene said ife is too short, adding "I need to focus on eternity and my family. Feels like a ton of bricks have been taken off my back!"

Groene, 66, was scheduled to leave the Legislature after this year due to term limits. He recently said he planned to run for the University of Nebraska's Board of Regents, but he said he'll now retire.

He was first elected to the Legislature in 2014 and reelected in 2018. In his tenure, he championed rural interests and property tax relief, and was involved in unsuccessful efforts to make major changes to the state’s system of school finance. He served as chair of the Education Committee from 2017 to 2021, where he often feuded with what he called the “education establishment,” such as groups representing school administrators and teachers. But he also sided with teachers who wanted state law rewritten to clarify they could intervene physically with students who were threatening the safety of themselves or others.

Groene, a registered Republican in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, was narrowly defeated as Education Committee chair last year by Sen. Lynne Walz. He has been highly critical of public schools and the University of Nebraska. He has also taken a conservative stance on cultural issues, most recently opposing a bill that allows employers to require unvaccinated employees to wear masks and be tested for COVID-19.

Ricketts, also a Republican, can now appoint a temporary successor to Groene. A successor to the next four-year term will be elected in November.

Editor's note: This report contains material from the Associated Press.