Bill Pownall submitted his resignation Wednesday as Campbell County sheriff amid allegations of malfeasance or misconduct after state investigators found evidence that he ordered his son’s drunken driving ticket be changed to a lesser charge.
Pownall’s last day as Campbell County Sheriff will end at 5 p.m. Dec. 1, a month before his term in office officially ends.
Pownall tendered his resignation to the County Commission at about 1 p.m. Wednesday after almost 12 years as the county’s top law enforcement officer.
Pownall’s resignation letter doesn’t mention whether he intends to continue to represent Campbell County in the state House of Representatives. He defeated Rep. Troy Mader in the Aug. 19 primary — just 10 days after his son’s drunken driving arrest — and was unopposed in the Nov. 4 general election.
He was recently appointed to the House Judiciary Committee.
Pownall did attend the Republican Caucus for legislators on Saturday in Casper.
“I look forward to the future and time I will be able to devote to my family, professional life and further service to all the good people I serve,” Pownall wrote in his resignation letter.
Undersheriff Scott Matheny, who was elected as sheriff earlier this month after running unopposed in both the primary and general elections, was reinstated to his position Tuesday afternoon, a day before Pownall submitted his official resignation letter.
Matheny, who had retired in October, originally hadn’t intended to work until he was sworn in as sheriff Jan. 6.
“I wasn’t expecting to,” Matheny said. “But you know what, the weather got cold, so it’s better to be inside than outside right now.”
“I know this office will be left in the experienced and capable hands of Scott Matheny, who has earned the trust and respect of the citizens, and deservedly so,” Pownall said in his resignation letter.
The three-term sheriff announced his resignation two weeks after Campbell County commissioners sent a verified complaint to Gov. Matt Mead alleging Pownall ordered a drunken arrest for his son be changed to a pedestrian under the influence.
Pownall asked a deputy to change his son’s ticket, according to the complaint.
Undersheriff Scott Matheny said he’s heard allegations that he was the one who changed the ticket.
“That’s absolutely false,” he said.
Directed by the governor, the state Attorney General’s Office had pursued the allegations against Pownall for misconduct in office.
Matheny and Cpl. Quentin Reynolds said that to their knowledge, Pownall hasn’t been summoned to court for any alleged misconduct proceedings.
When asked about the status of the complaint against Pownall, staff at the Attorney General’s Office said only Attorney General Peter Michael can answer whether a summons has been sent to Pownall.
Michael hasn’t responded to the News Record’s repeated inquiries since Mead forwarded the case to his office.
County Attorney Jeani Stone said two weeks ago that the report on Pownall, which was investigated by the state Division of Criminal Investigation, would be sent to a special prosecutor for possible criminal charges.
She has not responded to repeated inquiries, including those regarding whether a special prosecutor has been appointed.
Commission Chairman Mark Christensen said he believes the state’s process that could have led to Pownall’s removal from office will be dropped because of the resignation.
Christensen said the commission would make the Republican Party aware of the sheriff’s resignation. From there, the process of naming an interim sheriff takes about a month.
When there is a vacancy in a partisan office, the political party of that person selects three possible candidates and forwards those names to the county commission. The commission selects the person to fill the term from those names.
“We’re hoping to expedite that process,” Christensen said.
Otherwise, the person would be the interim sheriff for about a week before Matheny is sworn in.
“(It’s) new territory for me. I have no idea. I think a lot of people are in the dark about that,” Matheny said about whether he’s expected to be appointed interim sheriff before he is officially sworn in.
Although he has not responded to repeated attempts to contact him, the sheriff has been at work. Reynolds said Pownall was at the office Wednesday and has been at work regularly.
Pownall has not responded to phone calls about his intentions.
Yet he was not at a meeting Nov. 12 with county officials to discuss legislative issues that was well attended by currently serving elected officials, newly elected officials and exiting officials. Pownall did not attend even though he was an official leaving one elected office and preparing to take another.
“I remain proud of my service and proud of the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office and the men and women who serve there,” Pownall wrote in his resignation letter. “Your Sheriff’s Office is staffed with the finest, most honorable people in all of law enforcement.