NORFOLK, Neb. (KCAU) — A criminal investigation has been launched into the nonprofit that provides bus services to the Norfolk Area.

According to North Fork Area Transit (NFAT) Legal Council Attorney, Jason Lammli, the organization has suspended its general manager, engaged an auditing firm, and also contacted the county to determine if any further steps needed to be taken.

“The criminal investigation is proceeding very fast,” Madison County Attorney Joe Smith told the Norfolk City Council during an emergency meeting on Friday.

A criminal investigation into the transit agency began within an hour of the county being notified of what was going on. Three investigators were on the case as of Friday afternoon. Smith said he may have a decision made about charges as soon as Tuesday when the Madison County Board of Commissioners is set to meet during a regular meeting.

The Norfolk City Council met in an emergency meeting to discuss changing its agreement with NFAT on how it would pay the remainder of its annual allotment to the transit service. Lammli asked the council to pay its remaining allotment for the year in a lump sum rather than three planned quarterly payments.

The total lump sum requested was $88,105, money that had already been allotted to the transit service. Ordinarily, this amount would have been paid out in payments of approximately $29,000 on a quarterly basis according to the city’s contract with NFAT. However, Lammli asked the council to approve an amended agreement that would allow the council to pay the whole sum at once, which they agreed to do in an 8-0 vote.

The next quarterly payment was due to be made in two weeks, on January 1, 2023. However, Lammli said the financial situation of NFAT was too dire to wait until the next payment.

“Without additional funding, payroll would not be met today,” said Lammli.

North Fork Area Transit has over 70 employees and according to the president of its board, Traci Jeffery, the lump sum of money provided by the Norfolk City Council will only be enough to keep the program running for about two weeks. Money is due next week from reimbursements from the state which would help extend how long the service is able to pay its bills.

When asked by the council why bank loans were not used to cover operating expenses Lammli said banks had refused to lend the service enough money to make payroll. Smith said Banks had been notified of the investigation, but no specific reason was given as to why the banks refused to lend money to the transit service.

In the meantime, Nebraska Mobility Management has been contacted and will take over management of the service, at least for the time being. Mobility Management is a statewide service that is aimed at improving transit in Nebraska. Mobility Management will also look into whether the current program is the proper size for the area for which it serves.

An audit will also be conducted per the requirements of NFAT’s contract with the city and a local accounting firm will be used to help determine the financial situation of NFAT.