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Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Commissioners decide to delay vacancy declaration

The Board of Weston County Commissioners has postponed the approval of a letter declaring vacancies in the Wyoming State Legislature for senator and representative in Weston County referenced in a resolution approved on April 2 in a 3-2 vote.

According to Chairman Don Taylor, a request to postpone approval of the letter until after the November 2024 election was made by Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne. Eathorne had also requested the letter be provided in addition to the declaration of the resolution passed in April.

Taylor told the board that he had a phone conversation with Eathorne in which the state GOP chair said he supported the resolution and believes it may be part of a solution to saving the rural Wyoming vote in the Wyoming State Legislature. But despite this support, Eathrone suggested that the board wait to sign the letter declaring the vacancies until after the November election.

“He wants to go into a knife fight with a battleship,” Taylor said of Eathorne, noting that he believed after the election the resources would be available to support the resolution.

Once the letter is signed in November, upon approval of the board, Taylor said the process of filling the vacancies would begin. He noted that both current representatives, Allen Slagle, R-Newcastle, and Chip Neiman, R-Hullett, were in favor of the resolution but also supported  delaying the process.

Taylor also mentioned that those who had proposed the resolution supported delaying the process in the belief that Eathorne would support the vacancies in November.

Commissioner Nathan Todd, on the other hand, suggested that Slagle (who lives in Weston County) should relinquish his representation of Goshen and Niobrara counties and Neiman (who resides in Crook County) should relinquish his representation of Weston County to begin the process sooner.

He noted that this would give the commissioners the absolute right to appoint individuals to fill vacancies.

“The people in favor of this should put their money where their mouth is,” he said.

Commissioner Ed Wagoner spoke in support of Todd’s suggestion. Both Wagoner and Todd openly disagreed with the resolution, and ultimately voted against it. They also did not sign the final document approved by the rest of the board.

The resolution

The resolution approved by the commissioners declared a vacancy for both senator and representative for Weston County.

It was drafted in response to the 2022 legislative redistricting plan approved by the Wyoming Legislature. The plan continued to split Weston County into two districts in both the Wyoming House and Senate. As drawn, the legislative map roughly divides the county, with the north half lying in one district and the south lying in the other district in both the Senate and the House.

The resolution was first revealed by former county attorney William Curley at a commissioner’s meeting on Feb. 6, and he claims the support for the resolution lies in the Wyoming Constitution. He noted that Article 3, Section 3 of the state constitution states the county’s right to its own senator and representative, and it suggests this is simply remedied by adding more seats to the Legislature.

The two main assertions made in the proposed resolution argue that the state constitution allocated to the voters of each Wyoming county at least one representative and one senator and that those constitutionally created positions are, for Weston County, currently vacant.

Therefore, Curley explained, Weston County could rightfully declare vacancies and appoint individuals to fill those positions until the next election.

Outlined in a document of support presented by Curley to the commissioners is the preferred approach to declaring the legislative vacancies, the history of redistricting and how the declaration complies with both the Wyoming and U.S. Constitutions.

On Feb. 20, Dan Fouch, a county resident who has been working on the issue for over 10 years, formally presented the resolution to the board, noting that 10 years ago, a supporting resolution (14-03) was approved by a previous board.

That supporting resolution, dated April 1, 2014, and signed by former Commission Chairman Lenard Seeley, states that “the Weston County Board of County Commissioners supports the adoption of Constitutional Legislative Districting, including all aspects of Art. 3, Sec. 3, such as giving full effect to the Constitutional requirement that each county ‘shall constitute a senatorial and representative district’” and that each “‘county shall have at least one senator and one representative.’”

According to Fouch, the new resolution is the second step to the previously approved resolution 14-03.

“This is a constitutional issue. This is our county, and we have to take it back,” Fouch said.

Commission clips

Notes from the May 21, 2024, meeting of the Weston County Commissioners

• Ed Quinones, vice chairman of the Osage Improvement & Service District, requested the board’s opinion on a 1984 resolution regarding dogs running at large and the resolution’s potential to be used in Osage. County Attorney Michael Stulken said he would like time to review the document before giving an opinion.

• Roger Connett with Rare Element Resources provided an update on the company’s demonstration plant at the Logistics Center in Upton.

• Following an executive session at the request of Stulken, Commissioner Vera Huber moved to have County Clerk Becky Hadlock contact the LGLP, Local Government Liability Pool, regarding its availability to come to do a workshop for county supervisors and elected officials on proper supervisor etiquette and employer training. The motion carried.

• The board approved the renewal of liquor licenses, including the addition of a retail liquor license for Pizza Barn instead of a restaurant liquor license. There were a total of four retail liquor licenses and two limited retail liquor licenses.

• Mayor Pam Gualtieri requested that the county split ambulance subsidies with the city, citing city and county calls for service being similar. She said that the city will subsidize the Campbell County Health Emergency Medical Services with $103,000 in fiscal year 2026. The county has previously provided $30,000 for the service. The commissioners stated that they would stay in communication with the city and look at the subsidy during their upcoming budget process.

• The board approved prepays for general civil process service outside of Weston County at the request of Stulken.

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