GILLETTE — A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought against the Campbell County Public Library for allegedly spreading obscene materials.
Campbell County commissioners approved a resolution for special prosecution at their regular meeting Tuesday morning.
Last week, Hugh and Susan Bennett asked the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the library board and library director for criminal activity going on at the library.
The alleged crimes are serious and carry “significant penalties” in terms of fines and prison terms, said Deputy County Attorney Sean Brown.
The sheriff’s office took a report and forwarded it to the county attorney’s office.
Brown said the county attorney’s office is required by state law to provide legal counsel to the county and its departments, prosecute or defend the county in suits brought on by or against the county and give legal advice to the county and its departments.
“We have conflicting obligations,” Brown said. “We would be essentially bringing or investigating potential criminal charges against a subsidiary of the county, the library in this case. That would call into question whatever decision we make.”
If the county attorney’s office found that there was no criminal conduct going on, “one group may, probably would, say ‘That’s an implicitly biased decision, you’re being lenient in favor of these people because they’re your client,’” he said.
On the other hand, if it decided to pursue charges, it would be criticized by another group of people for “prosecuting (its) own client.”
“That’s an impossible situation for our attorney’s office to resolve effectively and transparently,” Brown said.
Brown added that the advice from the Wyoming State Bar counsel was that the case be referred to another office.
Weston County Attorney Michael Stulken was appointed to oversee the case.
Brown said Stulken will look at “one, whether there has been criminal conduct, two, what those potential charges are, and three, whether the individuals accused of those crimes can in fact be charged.”
Last week, County Attorney Mitch Damsky said he had three attorneys working on the complaint.
He told the Associated Press that the book dispute has “gotten contentious and out of hand” when it may have been resolvable by putting the books among material for adults.
"Personally, as a parent, I find the material to be just inappropriate for children and disgusting. But as a lawyer I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution and that’s why we are dealing with it with a fine-toothed comb,” Damsky said.