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Natrona County Commission Approves Conflict-of-Interest Policy

With an eye to avoiding the turmoil at Casper City Hall, a majority of the Natrona County Commission adopted a conflict-of-interest policy for itself on Tuesday.

“Members of this commission have been disturbed by what is happening in the city,” Chairman Bill McDowell said.

Before the meeting, commissioner Terry Wingerter said he didn’t think the county would the allegations like those leveled at council member Craig Hedquist.

Those allegations have accused the Hedquist Construction owner, of using his influence and knowledge to gain a competitive advantage, and verbally abusing city employees. The dispute has lead to a lawsuit by Hedquist against City Manager John Patterson, and a formal-but-toothless vote last week asking Hedquist to resign.

“We certainly don’t want to have an issue like that, not that we expect one,” commissioner Terry Wingerter said. “We just don’t ever want it to develop.”

The commission passed the resolution by a 3-1 vote with Forrest Chadwick absent because he’s attending a conference of the National Association of Counties in Alaska.

The resolution, which applies to commissioners’ immediate families, is simple, Wingerter said. “He or she cannot sell or profit from any business in the county.”

But commissioner Matt Keating opposed the resolution. saying he trusts commissioners to be honest and recuse themselves if a potential conflict arose.

“Natrona County is a little bit more than a small town,” Keating said. “It’s a short distance to find somebody you’re related to.”

Voters have elected commissioners whose businesses offer services needed by the county, he said. “We’d be shackling ourselves.”

For example, Keating said commissioner Rob Hendry has a construction business that can offer plowing services.

To which Hendry responded, “I’ll stay home.”

After the vote, Wingerter again pointed to the council’s turmoil.

“I have never seen this community in such an uproar,” he said. “I don’t want the county to go through what’s going on with the city.”

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