- Associated Press - Thursday, March 12, 2020

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska State Fair has hired a forensic investigation firm to look into the fair’s finances.

Beth Smith, who heads the state fair board, said Wednesday that the fair staff discovered during an internal review “activity that is suspicious in nature and warrants further investigation.”

The fair has been in contact with the offices of the state attorney general and state auditor, Smith said, and the Nebraska State Patrol will also investigate.

Fair staffers discovered the irregular numbers on Feb. 24, said the fair executive director, Lori Cox.

“And it was troubling enough that we determined at that point that we needed to reach out for additional assistance,” Cox told The Grand Island Independent.

The fair board approved a budget at a Nov. 22 meeting during which members learned the 2019 fair lost a projected $1.4 million. Patrick Kopke, the fair’s chief of finance and administration, resigned at that meeting after telling the board that changes were needed to avoid bankruptcy.

Eight fair employees lost their jobs in December as fair officials took steps to firm up finances.

Cox told the Grand Island Rotary Club earlier this month that, “Financially, we couldn’t be more solid.”

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