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Nebraska AG notifies Big Ten that it appears to be out of compliance with state's nonprofit act

Nebraska AG notifies Big Ten that it appears to be out of compliance with state's nonprofit act

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Add the Nebraska attorney general to the list of those seeking transparency from the Big Ten Conference.

The office of Doug Peterson on Friday issued a letter to the Big Ten notifying Commissioner Kevin Warren that the conference appears to be out of compliance with the Nebraska Nonprofit Corporation Act. According to a news release from Peterson's office, the attorney general is responsible for overseeing compliance with the act by nonprofits operating in the state.

Peterson has instructed Big Ten officials to provide documents and records to determine if they've operated in compliance with Nebraska law and their own governing documents.

"In order to receive the advantages to operate as a nonprofit organization in Nebraska, it is imperative that the organization operate with complete transparency regarding its decision-making process," Peterson said in the news release. "Nebraskans expect transparency from nonprofits in this state, and the Big Ten Conference is no exception."

Eight Nebraska football players recently filed a lawsuit against the Big Ten seeking to invalidate the league's Aug. 11 postponement of the fall football season and to award damages. Peterson's letter also has the postponed season as a central theme, but it's not the only matter on the attorney general's mind.

Peterson's letter to Warren states, in part: "It has come to my attention that your corporation is operating and conducting business within the State of Nebraska without being registered and/or failing to maintain registration to conduct business within the State of Nebraska."

Peterson requests that the Big Ten provide documentation to show it's registered and authorized to conduct business in the state. If the corporation isn't registered, or claims exemption from registration, Peterson asks that the conference provides an explanation as to why the corporation believes it may be exempt from statutory requirements. 

The league may be subject to civil penalties for a failure to comply. The Nebraska Nonprofit Corporation Act calls for penalties of $500 per day not to exceed $10,000 for each year.

In addition, Peterson's letter to Warren states, "in light of recent allegations as to the Big Ten's deliberative process regarding whether to cancel, modify, or postpone the 2020 football season, our office hereby seeks additional information regarding whether the aforementioned deliberations were conducted in accordance with requirements of the Nebraska Nonprofit Corporation Act. …"

Peterson seeks specific information by no later than Sept. 21, including: 

* All information, opinions, reports and statements that went into the conference's decisions concerning the 2020 football season. 

* Current bylaws and any amendments and appendices effective since Jan. 1, 2020.

* List of current directors, including the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors, who voted 11-3 to postpone the season.

* All documents governing the deliberative process leading to the decision to postpone fall sports, including but not limited to the Big Ten Conference handbook.

* All meeting minutes reflecting the deliberative process.

* Documentation of meetings with specific dates, times, places, type of meetings (special, annual, quarterly, etc.), and attendees and their titles. 

"If a special meeting," Peterson writes, "identify who called the meeting and under what authority."

* All documents relating to the fiscal impact of the Big Ten's decisions concerning the 2020 football season on the Big Ten itself. 

Peterson declined to comment on the matter through his director of communications.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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