Suttle disputes others' account of meeting on sewer overhaul costs -
Published Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 7:28 am
Omaha mayoral race
Suttle disputes others' account of meeting on sewer overhaul costs

For comprehensive World-Herald coverage of the mayoral election, visit our Mayor's Guide.

* * *

One meeting, two versions.

The latest skirmish in the Omaha mayoral race revolves around a meeting that took place between Mayor Jim Suttle and some of the businessmen opposed to how the city would pay for a costly sewer separation project.

Two businessmen said Monday that during the meeting, which took an angry turn, Suttle reneged on an earlier “promise” to back a compromise, telling the businessmen it wasn't “politically palatable.”

The businessmen said they eventually turned to Republican Jean Stothert and others to break the impasse.

Suttle and a staff member who attended the meeting, mayoral spokeswoman Aida Amoura, had a different take. Suttle said he neither made any promises that he didn't keep nor did he ever use the words “politically palatable.”

“We didn't say anything like that,” Suttle said.

He also said the businessmen were angry because he insisted that any deal struck with the businesses had to be fair to all Omahans.

Suttle is running for re-election against Stothert in what has become a bruising battle down to the wire as the two sides hammer each other on television and through press conferences.

The election is a week from today.

The latest press conference in the campaign was called by Stothert and included two businessmen, Henry Davis, president of the Omaha Packing Co., and Audie Keaton, president of the James Skinner Baking Co.

OWH Mayor's Guide
For profiles of the candidates, exclusive Q&A's, bios, campaign cash numbers, list of forums, World-Herald stories and more, visit the OWH Mayor's Guide.

The two attended the disputed meeting with Suttle on Feb. 11, 2012.

The meeting revolved around the controversial and costly sewer separation project that has plagued Omaha and other cities for several years. The federal government is requiring Omaha to upgrade its sewer system, primarily in the eastern part of the city.

The entire project is estimated to cost upward of $2 billion and will take more than a decade to complete. A key question has been how to pay for it.

Davis and Keaton, both registered Republicans, said Monday that they initially met with Suttle to argue against an earlier plan that 19 large industries, including their own, would pay a higher share of the cost. They said Suttle agreed to a compromise, expanding the number of businesses that would be asked to pay at a higher rate.

About six weeks later, however, they said they learned that Suttle was having second thoughts. They met again with Suttle, and that meeting took an “unprofessional” turn, Davis said.

“At that meeting, we asked Mayor Suttle twice why he had not kept his word and submitted a new (sewer pay) formula to the City Council. After evading (the question), the third time he angrily responded that 'the formula is not politically palatable,' ” Davis said.

“Upset that the mayor was going back on his word for political reasons, I got up to leave the meeting. The mayor became very agitated and started screaming as I walked out of his office,” Davis added.

Suttle said that never happened.

“I have never, ever wavered from that first conversation with Henry Davis,” Suttle said. “I always said we always have to have people agree to the same concept.”

Eventually Davis and others who had formed a coalition called Save Omaha Jobs said they sought help from the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. The chamber hired a mediator to help hammer out an agreement with the city.

During those mediations, Davis and others said they grew to rely on Stothert's help in reaching a compromise. City Councilwoman Stothert is head of the council's Public Works Committee.

“Our experience with Councilwoman Stothert was completely different,” Davis said. “Jean was willing to listen, and more than willing to roll up her sleeves and work to reformulate the fee and save Omaha jobs.”

Suttle and Amoura also disputed this account, saying the mayor played a key role in the negotiations with the mediator.

Amoura said it was the mayor's Public Works Department that came up with several different proposals to pay for the sewer project, including the one that was ultimately agreed upon by all parties involved.

The mayor agreed.

“These are formulas we came up with. Jean sat in on a couple of meetings,” Suttle said.

Suttle also questioned why the two businessmen were bringing up the matter now, saying it was all about politics.

“The reality is that we got the job done. Henry, aren't you happy? Audie, aren't you happy?” Suttle asked.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Robynn Tysver    |   402-444-1309    |  

Robynn is's elections writer. She's covered presidential politics in Iowa's caucuses, and gubernatorial and Senate races in Nebraska.

Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Attorney: Man accused of trying to open plane's door needs psychiatric evaluation
49-year-old sentenced to 40-50 years for attempted sex assault of child
Brothers looking for pot sentenced for violent home invasion
At Boys Town panel, experts stress it's never too early to educate children
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Gov. Heineman calls 2014 a 'very good year for Nebraska taxpayers'
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Arrest made in teen's shooting death at Benson's Gallagher Park
Section of 50th Street to close for bridge demolition
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
Plans for new $16M YMCA in Council Bluffs at 'critical juncture'
Woodmen request would take nearly $40M in valuation from tax rolls
With fixed AC, Fort Calhoun's nuclear station ends brief shutdown
Windy day could make driving difficult on east-west roads
Richard Brown steps down as Charles Drew Health Center CEO
OPD safety expo set for April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Crew working to disassemble International Nutrition plant
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
18-year-old arrested in stolen-car case
U.S. Senate candidate Bart McLeay trails his 3 GOP rivals in fundraising
< >
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Breaking Brad: Pothole repair crew gets stuck in a pothole
In East Lansing, Mich., a pothole repair crew got stuck inside a pothole. How did this not happen in Omaha?
Breaking Brad: What do the moon, Colorado senators have in common?
How about that "blood red" moon Monday? It was as red as the eyes of a Colorado legislator.
Breaking Brad: Hey, Republicans, are you ready to be audited?
A quick list of audit red flags: 3) You fail to sign your return. 2) You fail to report income. 1) You are a registered Republican.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »