- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A state administrator who oversaw the calculation of all Nebraska prison sentences never learned how the process worked and couldn’t answer his own employees’ questions, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.

The report released Friday cites poor communication within Nebraska’s prison-records division and inadequate management by its administrator, Kyle Poppert.

The report said many division employees felt that they needed more training, and couldn’t rely on Poppert to answer their questions. It was requested by the Department of Correctional Services and based on a dozen interviews with prison employees, including Poppert.

Poppert told his interviewer that he rarely attended training sessions, and acknowledged that sessions didn’t take place as often as needed. He also admitted that he didn’t personally know how to calculate sentences, but relied on his managers.

“The absence of the person in charge reflects poor leadership, oversight and lack of involvement in an area under his supervision that is crucial to the overall credibility of the agency,” wrote Glenn Jackson, a technical assistant with the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Corrections.

Poppert was suspended without pay for two weeks in August for his role in the sentencing miscalculations, which led to the premature release of hundreds of inmates. The department’s associate legal counsel, Kathy Blum, was suspended for one day. Two department attorneys, George Green and Sharon Lindgren, retired under the threat of being fired.

A corrections department spokesman said Poppert did not want to comment.

In a statement, Gov. Dave Heineman said he had not yet been briefed about the report. Heineman said Department of Correctional Services Director Mike Kenney was still reviewing Poppert’s performance.

“As previously stated, those who are responsible for the problems should and will be held accountable and face appropriate consequences, to be determined by the director,” Heineman said.

Kenney said Friday that he temporarily reassigned Kenney in September so he could be trained in prison records management.

“Once this issue was brought to my attention, my focus was to correct the problem and proactively seek out any other areas where mistakes in sentence calculations could occur,” Kenney said.

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