(William B. Plowman, Invision)

Lawsuit accuses 3 high-level Nebraska cops of harassment after they targeted marijuana-related Facebook posts

LINCOLN, Neb. — A lawsuit accuses two county sheriffs and a police chief of harassing two employees with the Nebraska Crime Commission after it denied grant funding to a western Nebraska anti-drug task force.

The lawsuit filed Monday in Lancaster County District Court by Lisa Stamm and Vanessa Humaran said officials improperly used a state criminal database to check out the two in an attempt to discredit and harass them.

Stamm is grants division chief for the commission and Humaran is federal Justice Assistance Grants administrator.

The search on Stamm was conducted in June, the lawsuit said, a month after the commission withdrew funding for the Western Nebraska Intelligence and Narcotics Group. The commission said the group hadn’t complied with grant requirements. The group had received about $100,000 in funding the year before.

The group includes law enforcement agencies in Scottsbluff and the sheriff’s departments for Scotts Bluff and Cheyenne counties and the lawsuit names Cheyenne County Sheriff John Jenson, Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman and Scottsbluff Police Chief Kevin Spencer. Spencer declined to comment Wednesday. The two other men didn’t immediately return calls.

The lawsuit said the two searches on Humaran occurred in 2016 shortly after she assumed some of the duties as the grants administrator.

Stamm alleged in the lawsuit that Overman and Spencer filed complaints with the Nebraska attorney general’s office regarding private Facebook posts and made numerous telephone calls to the attorney general’s office criticizing Stamm.

Stamm and Humaran’s attorney, Kathleen Neary, said Wednesday that the posts were “likes or share about medicinal marijuana” and said the defendants were attempting to thwart Stamm’s rights to free speech.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said her office asked the Nebraska State Patrol to investigate whether the defendants illegally used the Nebraska Criminal Justice Information System to gather possibly damaging information on Stamm and Humaran. She said her office turned over those reports to the Scotts Bluff and Cheyenne county attorneys.

A spokesman for the State Patrol confirmed Wednesday that the agency investigated and turned reports over to prosecutors, but did not answer questions about whether the investigation revealed any wrongdoing.

Stamm and Humaran are seeking a jury trial and an unspecified amount of damages.