Doing Something by Doing Nothing: Council Declines Hedquist’s Investigation Request
Acting on an attorney's recommendation, Casper City Council did something Tuesday by doing nothing.
Last week, councilman Craig Hedquist sent a letter to city council asking for an investigation into whether some city officials violated ethical standards.
Judy Studer, substituting for City Attorney Bill Luben who faced a conflict of interest as an employee of the council, said any action including acknowledgment of receiving the letter could be used as evidence by Hedquist in his federal lawsuit against the city.
Councilman Paul Bertoglio initially disagreed. "Doing nothing is doing something," he said.
Bertoglio made a motion to accept the letter, and then let it go at that, saying the issues Hedquist raised have been settled.
But after other discussion among council members, Studer repeated her advice: "I'm concerned anything you do could be used against you."
"Anything" apparently meant something to Bertoglio, who then withdrew his motion.
Council had scheduled time to discuss the letter after other business at the meeting during which it voted 6-3 to approve a controversial ordinance "regarding removal of officials" with amendments about ethical behavior. The amended ordinance came about after reports that Hedquist used his position last year to steer business to his construction company, and to verbally accost a city employee. He has denied wrongdoing.
Hedquist said approval of the ordinance didn't affect his intentions. "That is still in progress, so I guess this doesn't have anything to do with the federal lawsuit."
At a work session before the regular meeting, Studer reviewed the letter.
Hedquist's request included three issues already the subject of the amended complaint he and Janel Moore filed against City Manager John Patterson and the city itself, she said.
The fourth allegation asserted Patterson profited from a city purchase from Wyoming Machinery because his wife is an employee at the company, Studer said. However, City Clerk V.H. McDonald requested the purchase of the equipment on an emergency basis in December 2012. McDonald presented the request to Patterson, who simply put in on the consent agenda for approval by the council, she said.
The allegation was groundless, Studer said.
"So he (Patterson) had no financial gain or anything, no private benefit as a result of the purchase," she said. "Even though his wife works there, she's just an employee. They don't own stock or any interest in the company."
Studer advised council to ignore the letter because it does not state a violation of law, and it would be a matter of discovery in the lawsuit, Studer said.
It also raised the question whether Hedquist was misusing his office to ask the city to do discovery in a lawsuit in which he might benefit, she said. "It's quite ironic."