The Campbell County Republican Party Central Committee is accusing the Campbell County Commission of foul play in the process of selecting a new commissioner.
At Tuesday’s meeting, none of the three finalists for the open seat on the commission — Elgin Faber, Jeff Raney and Troy McKeown — received majority support from the four sitting commissioners.
Deputy County Attorney Carol Seeger filed a petition to the local District Court on Wednesday afternoon requesting a judge fill the vacancy on behalf of the commissioners.
Vicki Kissack, chairwoman of the local Republican Party and wife of Clark Kissack, whose resignation in the fall triggered this process, also filed a petition Wednesday, claiming that the tie had been planned in advance.
Faber received support from two commissioners — Rusty Bell and Mark Christensen — but Commissioners Matt Avery and Micky Shober did not vote for any of the three candidates. Avery and Shober’s terms expire at the end of the year after they failed in their bids for re-election.
“Upon information and belief, a majority of the Commissioners arranged that those Commissioners who would be leaving the Commission would intentionally cause a deadlock,” Kissack’s attorney, Mitchell Edwards of Laramie, wrote in the petition.
In the legal world, “upon information and belief” refers to secondhand knowledge that is believed to be true.
The commissioners then made an “unlawful motion” to allow a local District Court judge to make the selection, showing that they “intentionally abrogated their duty to appoint a person to fill the vacancy,” the petition reads.
Christensen said he found it interesting that the local GOP is making the accusation when its own “actions have been questioned by a large number of its members.”
Several residents have complained to the commissioners that they thought the far right segment of the party had set up the selection of the final three nominated, despite having more qualified candidates among the 19 who applied.
“I think that anybody who watched the discussion that we had on Tuesday, in comparison to the discussion that the party had weeks earlier, would find that statement hypocritical if not damn right offensive,” Christensen said.
The commissioners asked good questions and reviewed the submitted information beforehand, Christensen said, while the central committee “put forward somebody who didn’t fill out the required paperwork.”
“It’s hypocrisy at best to make accusations before you clean up your own house,” he said.
District Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan has been assigned the case. He has 20 days to make a selection. The only statutory requirement he has to follow is that he has to pick a registered Campbell County Republican.
The seat opened up when Clark Kissack resigned this fall for unspecified reasons. Whoever is selected will serve out the rest of his term, which is set to end the first week of January 2021.
In her petition, Vicki Kissack asked the District Court to take one of three paths. First, it could fill the open seat on the county commission by selecting from the three finalists who were chosen by the Central Committee.
Second, it could kick the decision back to the commissioners, requiring them to pick from one of the three.
Lastly, it could go one step further and declare that the state statute that allowed for this to happen is unconstitutional and require the commissioners to pick from one of the three.
The statute violates the Wyoming Constitution and its distribution and separation of powers, Edwards wrote, because “the power to appoint to office is not a function of the judicial branch.”