Reposted from Bryan Miller, Chairman of the Sheridan County Republican Party
Today our Board of County Commissioners failed us. They failed to abide by the process set forth in our state law. They failed in their sworn civic duty by refusing to choose a nominee to fill the vacant seat of former commissioner Alan Thompson. Is it right that the board has apparently decided not to follow the law, as is their sworn duty to do?
As the political party responsible and obliged to put forward nominees to fill this vacancy, we are highly disappointed in the BOCC’s dereliction in their duty.
As of this writing, the Board of County Commissioners only has four of their required five members, and is therefore not properly constituted under the law.
Under Wyoming Statute (WS 18-3-524), the political party represented by the outgoing person provides the county with the names of three people to fill the seat. These names must be provided within 20 days of the vacancy, and the BOCC must choose a successor from that list within 20 days. Today, the Board of County Commissioners refused to choose.
The three names were brought forward by motion from a board member, and none of them received a second from any member of the county commission. The motions having failed for want of a second, the BOCC adjourned. In so doing, they failed in their statutory duty, as prescribed by law, and affirmed by the Wyoming Secretary of State, Chuck Gray. The reason given by the Chairwoman was the BOCC felt that none of the candidates were qualified.
What are the qualifications to serve as a Commissioner on the BOCC, you might ask? Well, according to State Statute, they are: Must be a resident of the county in which you are elected from the start of your term through the end of it. That is all our law says in WS 18-3-501. The BOCC had no authority to NOT choose from the names under Wyoming State Statute, which states the “…the Board SHALL choose…”. There is no leeway in this statement. It is a mandatory requirement of the law.
The matter will now, we perceive erroneously, be put before our district court for decision. The operating rationale here is specious. The court only gets to decide if none of the steps described in the statute are fulfilled. In this case, ALL of the requirements of the law have been fulfilled, except for the BOCC choosing from the nominees. It is hoped that a judge will decide this issue is non-justiciable, refer it back to the BOCC, and enjoin the board from considering ANY OTHER business until it is: 1.) That it has made a selection from the names provided by the Sheridan County Republican Party, and 2.) Duly constituted with its full complement of five (5) members.
There is also this: Our elected official are actually required by law to perform their duties and carry for the process in Wyoming statutes. Wyoming State Statute 18-3-523 is very explicit about county commissioners refusing or neglecting to perform any duties required of them as a member of the board of county commissioners. The law states the following: “18-3-523. Removal from office.
(a) If any county commissioner refuses or neglects without just cause to perform any duties required of him as a member of the board of county commissioners or knowingly commits any act which by law is in violation of his official oath and bond, charges in writing may be made against him before the district judge of the district in which the county is situated. Notice of filing and a copy of the charges shall be served upon the accused by the sheriff of the county within ten (10) days after the charges are filed with the clerk of the district court. The cause shall be tried not later than thirty (30) days from the filing of the charges and shall be by the court without the intervention of a jury. After submission of the proof the commissioner shall be removed from office by the governor of the state.
(b) If charges against a county commissioner are filed with the governor, he shall cause the accused commissioner to be served with a copy of the charges and notice of the time the governor will hear the matter. The hearing before the governor shall be not less than twenty (20) days after the date of the notice.”
The contention that the nominees were not elected by the Sheridan County voters is specious and moot, since the appointment process is designed to fill vacancies created when one of those elected members departs before their term expires. It is not the same process as a general election, nor is it intended to be. As an example, if either of our senators were to leave office, the governor would appoint a replacement until the next general election. The people don’t make the choice. Our nominees were, in fact, chosen by the voters, through their party representatives in an open meeting of the Central Committee, in accordance with WY Statute 18-3-524. In fact, the three nominees ranked 4th, 5th, and 6th in the last general election, which was a providential piece of consistency.
Would that the Board took their statutory duty in this matter as seriously as they do their positions as commissioners, and fulfilled the duties and responsibilities outlined by law. Stay tuned to this space for more to follow in terms of the party's response to this situation. Our thanks to those who showed up to stand in support of our nominees and encourage our BOCC to fulfill their solemn duty.