- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday disbarred former Omaha state Sen. Brenda Council for using campaign money to gamble at casinos, despite a court-appointed referee’s opinion that she should have kept her law license.

The referee had recommended late last year that Council receive a one-year license suspension plus two years of probation, noting that she had shown remorse, sought help for a gambling addiction and repaid the campaign funds.

But the Nebraska Counsel for Discipline took exception to that recommendation as being too lenient. On Friday, the high court agreed, saying disbarment is the appropriate sanction.

“After considering all the circumstances, of respondent’s misconduct, we cannot conclude that there are mitigating circumstances which would overcome the presumption of disbarment for misappropriation,” the high court wrote. “Respondent’s repayment of the campaign funds, commitment to Gamblers Anonymous, and service to the community are commendable.

“Nonetheless, those facts do not ‘substantially outweigh’ the aggravating factors - that she engaged in multiple acts of misappropriation, not merely one, and did so while holding elective public office,” the court wrote.

Council was sentenced to three years of criminal probation last year and fined $500 after pleading guilty to a federal wire fraud charge. She also was fined $500 after pleading guilty to two state misdemeanor charges that she filed false campaign finance reports.

She lost her 2012 re-election bid to Sen. Ernie Chambers, who filed the complaint against her that led to the federal charges.

Authorities said Council, who also served as an Omaha city councilwoman and school board member in the past, filed campaign finance reports that concealed her misuse of more than $63,000 in campaign donations at casinos.

Council declined comment on the disbarment through her attorney, Vince Powers of Lincoln.

Powers said Council is working at a not-for-profit organization in Omaha.

“We had certainly hoped that the court would have adopted the referee’s recommendation of a one-year suspension after hearing the witnesses on Ms. Council’s behalf,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the court took her license.”

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