City Council Candidates Spar Over ‘Removal From Office’ Ordinance
Nearly all the candidates for Casper City Council who have not served on the council sharply disagreed with the new "removal from office" ordinance that allows council to remove elected council members.
"I was 100 percent against it," Ward 2 candidate Shawn Johnson said Monday at a forum held in council chambers and sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Natrona County Public Library.
All the candidates, nominated in the Aug. 19 primary, believe council members should be held accountable.
But some said the ordinance, passed on Sept. 2, was not the way to do it.
The resolution, Johnson said, was poorly written and was done as a knee-jerk reaction to the dispute with councilman Craig Hedquist who was accused of ethics and conduct violations last year.
The ordinance, passed Sept. 2, enables council to initiate an investigation into another member and depending on the results, allows it to penalize council members' direct violations of the city’s code of ethics, as well as sexual harassment, workplace violence and the creation of a hostile work environment.
Ray Pacheco, candidate for Ward 3, echoed a warning from a couple of ordinance opponents who said the vague wording could enable a council member in the future to wage a personal vendetta against another. "It can be used as a weapon against somebody," he said.
Robin Mundell, candidate for Ward 1, and William Street, candidate for Ward 3, both said Sept. 2 was a sad day in Casper's history and showed a lack of leadership on the council.
Phil Jones, a candidate for Ward 3, said the ordinance probably will need some reworking.
But current council members, Kenyne Schlager, candidate for Ward 3, and Mayor Paul Meyer, candidate for Ward 2, strongly defended their support of the ordinance.
"Politicians need to be held accountable," Meyer said. "End of story."
Schlager disagreed with the lack of leadership comments, saying, "It was a sign of extremely strong leadership."
Kim Holloway, a candidate for Ward 1 who served on the council from 2009 through 2012, quipped, "it didn't have to be addressed until it had to be addressed."
Through research, Holloway has found cities the size of Casper have their own ethics commissions composed of community members.
The city has three wards, with three council members from each. Ward 1 roughly includes central Casper between Poplar and Beverly streets. Ward 2 roughly includes the city west of Poplar Street, and Ward 3 roughly includes the city roughly east of Beverly Street.
Voters in Wards 1 and 2 will select one of the two candidates. Voters in Ward 3 will select two of the four candidates.
Absentee voting has begun at the Natrona County Clerk's office in the old courthouse. The general election will be held on Nov. 4.