Hedquist Public Hearing to Occur April 29
An unprecedented informal public hearing involving Casper City Council and embattled Ward II councilman Craig Hedquist has been scheduled for later this month.
The resolution, which was passed by a 6-2 margin Tuesday night, not only schedules the Apr. 29 hearing, but also accepts the recommendation of hearing officer Sharon Rose, who, last month, suggested that the city not move forward with a contested case hearing against Hedquist.
Council members Tuesday night admitted that they're essentially entering uncharted waters, and that the format for the informal hearing would have to be hashed out prior to the hearing date.
However, before the vote Tuesday, Hedquist attorney Michael Lansing told council that, regardless of format, the hearing will subject his client to what he called a "lynch mob."
"There will be no meaningful discovery, no meaningful testimony from witnesses – the hearing will be nothing more than (city-hired attorney Wes) Reeves coming up and presenting his side, and Mr. Hedquist's counsel coming up and presenting his side," Lansing said.
During the hearing, if council determines Hedquist violated conflict of interest laws, the elected body could either issue a public reprimand or request that Hedquist resign. Unlike a contested case hearing, however, council cannot remove Hedquist from his elected position.
Ward I councilmen Keith Goodenough and Daniel Sandoval voted against the resolution. Hedquist abstained.
Both the city of Casper and city manager John Patterson accuse Hedquist of violating conflict of interest laws. Hedquist owns Hedquist Construction, which does contracted road work for the city.
Patterson was not in attendance for Tuesday's meeting.
In a prior investigation, a city-hired attorney found that Hedquist committed workplace violence by engaging in a verbal altercation with a city engineer during a construction progress meeting late last year. In December, Hedquist apologized for using profanity during the argument.
Immediately after Tuesday’s meeting, Casper mayor Paul Meyer refused to comment specifically in regard to the Hedquist situation, but did say negotiations will continue between both sides.
"It’s been a tempestuous few months, but I think we’re heading in the right direction," Meyer said. "I think we’re finally trying to make our city whole again."