State GOP backs local party as Williams and others deny they voted illegally
EVANSTON — A response has been filed in the civil suit claiming the March leadership elections of the Uinta County Republican Party were conducted illegally.
Defendants Elisabeth “Biffy” Jackson, Karl Allred, Lyle and Jana Lee Williams and the county party itself responded to the suit filed by Jon Conrad, State Sen. Wendy Schuler, State Rep. Danny Eyre, former Bear River Mayor Troy Nolan, Ron Micheli, and Clarence and Clara Vranish.
Plaintiffs in the suit claim that Lyle Williams, former county party chair, allowed Jackson (his daughter), Allred, Jana Lee Williams (his wife) and himself to vote illegally at leadership elections held on March 16.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that although state and county Republican party bylaws specify elected officers can vote in elections along with precinct committeemen and women, Wyoming statute states that voting shall be done by the county central committee, which consists of the elected precinct committee members.
Plaintiffs contend that Lyle Williams’ decision to allow the four named individuals to vote, even though they were not elected precinct committeemen and women, changed the results of the elections.
In their response, Jackson, Allred and the Williamses make multiple claims to counter those made by plaintiffs.
First, they argue that no one present at the actual elections on March 16 objected to the votes using remedies available through Robert’s Rules of Order governing parliamentary procedure.
Defendants also note that the results of the election were included in the official meeting minutes approved at the April meeting, with no objections raised at that point either.
The defendants claim the plaintiffs’ argument hinges on the interpretation of Wyoming statute 22-4-105, which details the manner of party elections, and W.S. 22-4-101(b), which discusses which individuals are considered members of the county central committee.
W.S. 22-4-105 states, in part, “The county central committee shall meet at the county seat each odd-numbered year at a time and place determined by the county chairman. … At the meeting, the county central committee shall elect the chairman of the county central committee, one state committeeman and one state committeewoman and other offices as provided by the party bylaws.”
W.S. 22-4-101(b) states, “The county central committee of each political party consists of precinct committeemen and committeewomen elected in the county at the regular biennial primary election.”
Defendants argue the portion of W.S. 22-4-105 that clearly includes “as provided by the party bylaws” indicates elections are to be conducted according to bylaws that allow for elected officers to vote, whether they are precinct committee members or not.
Plaintiffs argue that W.S. 22-4-101(b) clearly specifies that the central committee is made up of elected precinct committeemen and women, while W.S. 22-4-105 clearly states the county central committee will vote in the leadership elections, which would indicate party bylaws contradict state law.
Defendants further claim that W.S. 22-4-101(b) notably does not contain the word “only,” indicating the Wyoming Legislature did not intend for it to be read that a central committee only consists of elected precinct committee members.
They further argue that case law precedent makes clear that governments are not to interfere in the internal matters of any political party, as doing so would violate the party’s constitutional rights.
Although plaintiffs filed a request for an injunction to prevent the recently elected leadership of Jackson, Allred and Jana Lee Williams from taking any action in their leadership roles and also requested a speedy ruling on the matter due to the impending state central committee meeting, which is set for this weekend, no action has yet been taken in the case.
The Wyoming State Republican Party, however, announced the results of an internal investigation on the matter.
On Monday, May 10, the state central committee announced that its investigative committee had conducted a review of the elections, as requested by Conrad, and had found the elections were not held improperly.
“The investigative committee presented a report to the SCC (state central committee) after conducting a thorough investigation, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing numerous documents provided. The SCC voted 48 to 2, with four abstentions, at its May 4 meeting in favor of accepting the conclusions of the investigative committee that state and Uinta County bylaws both authorize county officers to vote on matters before the county central committee and neither the information provided nor the Wyoming Statutes cited supported Mr. Conrad’s assertion.”
Conrad also filed a complaint with the Wyoming Attorney General’s office regarding the elections, which was sent back to the county level for investigation by Uinta County Clerk Amanda Hutchinson’s office.
That investigation was turned over to Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson-Kallas’s office and then turned over to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation to determine if any laws were broken.
Howieson-Kallas previously made clear in a May 4 email to the Herald that there would be no further comment from her office until that investigation is completed.