Nebraska Economic Development director resigns over COVID grant concerns
The director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development resigned Wednesday, a day after a news report revealed a business he owns received pandemic relief grants from the agency he headed.
Republican Gov. Jim Pillen announced Anthony Goins’ resignation in a news release that gave no reason for the move. But Goins was the focus of a story Tuesday by the Nebraska Examiner that said his agency gave two $12,000 small business grants to the Lincoln cigar bar in which Goins has majority ownership.
The department confirmed Wednesday that the grants, which came from federal CARES Act funds, were given to Capital Cigar Lounge in 2020. But they were issued through a computer system that doled out checks to applicants who met the criteria, answered questions correctly and had lost money due to the pandemic, the agency said.
The application for Capital Cigar were under the name of one of Goins’ business partners, agency spokeswoman Kate Ellington said.
A message left for Goins at Capital Cigar Lounge was not returned Wednesday. But in a statement to the Lincoln Journal Star, he called the news reports ‘false attacks’ and said he decided to resign so as not to distracted from the agency’s work.
Goins was first appointed director in 2019 by then-Gov. Pete Ricketts and reappointed by Pillen.