Pillen’s office defends, clarifies Nebraska DHHS appointment after contentious hearing

By: - February 8, 2024 7:56 pm

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen. Dec. 27, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — One day after a contentious hearing for the governor’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Gov. Jim Pillen’s office addressed committee concerns.

Laura Strimple, a spokesperson for Pillen, addressed criticism of DHHS CEO Steve Corsi, who took the helm Sept. 11 and sat before the HHS Committee on Wednesday. There, he received a smattering of questions about his social media history but also why, two senators alleged, he failed to properly disclose his former employment with Epiphany Associates.

The State of Nebraska is contracting with Epiphany Associates, a Utah-based consulting and training firm, to reduce state spending over the next few years. 

In the $10 million contract — $2.5 million for the first year with optional renewal — the state expects Epiphany to identify “realistic, feasible, hard cost savings” in state spending, such as:

  • At least 3% in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. 
  • At least 6% in the following fiscal year, ending June 30, 2025.
Steve Corsi, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, right, testifies during his confirmation hearing in front of a legislative committee Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in Lincoln. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha on Wednesday passed out to each of her fellow HHS Committee members a copy of Corsi’s Sept. 15 filing with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, which is required under state law for financial disclosures. 

This form states that Corsi’s sole source of income in 2022, in excess of $1,000, was working for the Volunteers of America Western Washington. There, he served as president and CEO. The organization helps young adults with developmental disabilities. 

Corsi did not list Epiphany as an employer. However, Corsi did not work there in 2022. He testified Wednesday that he worked last year for Epiphany — from Jan. 2 to Sept. 7 — as an executive leadership coach consultant.

State law requires elected or appointed officials to file 2023 disclosures by March 1.

Corsi did describe not disclosing his employment on his 2022 form as “error and oversight,” but Strimple and State Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, chair of the HHS Committee, said Thursday that Corsi completed his NADC disclosure correctly.

A letter from DHHS, along with Corsi’s full disclosure form for 2022, will be sent to the committee, Strimple added, “to correct the implication raised by certain questions posed to CEO Corsi in the confirmation hearing that his filings were incomplete or in error.”

Strimple on Thursday also clarified the timeline for Nebraska contracting with Epiphany. She stated that Legislative Bill 814 — signed into law May 24, 2023 — required Nebraska to hire an independent consultant by July 1, 2023, to conduct an efficient audit.

Epiphany was selected, entering a no-bid, emergency contract with the State of Nebraska on June 30, 2023.

Strimple said Epiphany’s leaders, after learning of Nebraska’s DHHS CEO vacancy, recommended Corsi as a “transformative, cost-cutting new leader for an agency badly in need of reform.” Corsi’s familiarity with Epiphany, Strimple added, has allowed him to take on “several innovative projects” that she said will improve delivery of services at a lower cost.

A committee vote on whether to recommend Corsi’s appointment to the full Legislature is expected next week.


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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach rejoins the Nebraska Examiner after studying abroad in Antigua, Guatemala, following a yearlong Examiner internship. His coverage focus areas have included politics and government, health and well-being and higher education.