No Decision From Casper City Council After Informal Public Hearing
Tuesday’s informal public hearing against embattled Ward II councilman Craig Hedquist yielded no immediate response from Casper City Council, which unanimously opted to consider all of the presented evidence and testimony before rendering a decision.
Ward I councilman Bob Hopkins, who, as hearing officer, moderated the hearing, said that council needs time to evaluate incoming public comment and all two-and-a-half hours of testimony.
“Council wants to look at the transcript that we’ll get, and we’ll accept written comments overnight that are appropriate to the situation,” Hopkins said. “We will digest that, and then we’ll make a decision within 10 days of the time we receive the transcript.”
Council on Tuesday heard from city-hired attorney Wes Reeves and four witnesses, including public works director Rick Harrah, and Andrew Beamer, the city engineer who was the target of Hedquist’s so-called “fighting words” during a construction progress meeting last year.
“I can tell you, in our opinion, he feels that he is now entitled,” Beamer said of Hedquist since his election to council. “Entitled to unlimited contact with staff, unlimited contact with management, and entitled to unlimited access to city records and data.”
In September, an internal investigation concluded that Hedquist subjected Beamer to workplace violence during an August meeting at the corner of Poplar Street and Boulder Drive. Allegedly, Hedquist, while referencing what he believed was additional work, asked Beamer if he was going to “… f—ing going to stand up, b—h? Are you going to start paying?”
Beamer also told investigators that Hedquist had a “challenging type of look” during the altercation. In December, Hedquist apologized for using “unfiltered language” during the altercation.
“I could call Mr. Hedquist’s (behavior) unique in the way (in which) he’s almost trying to direct the contracts,” Beamer said.
Harrah told council that Hedquist made it clear during an altercation with him near Indian Paintbrush last June that he was acting as both a councilperson and a contractor.
“This is not acceptable at any level, and, hopefully, here in this chamber, it’s not acceptable to you to be treated in this manner,” Harrah said. “We are professionals. If you’re representing a company, and I’m representing the owner as a city, I expect professionalism. I don’t expect to be cussed at.”
Neither Hedquist nor his counsel were in attendance on Tuesday. Hopkins said Hedquist’s counsel sent a letter to the city last week indicating that they would not participate in the hearing.
“There will be no meaningful discovery, no meaningful testimony from witnesses – the hearing will be nothing more than Mr. Reeves coming up and presenting his side, and Mr. Hedquist’s counsel coming up and presenting his side,” Hedquist attorney Michael Lansing said during a council regular session on Apr. 16.
During that particular council meeting, Lansing said his client would be essentially subjected to a “lynch mob.”
Hedquist’s absence prompted theories from Reeves.
“He knows his conduct is not defensible, and, to answer questions that might be (asked) about his conduct in the application of the code of ethics, (it) may, frankly, wreck his federal court case,” Reeves said.
Hedquist’s counsel filed a federal suit against the city and city manager John Patterson in early April, alleging civil rights violations, political sabotage and attempted illegal police surveillance.
At this stage, council can take one of three pathways – council may choose to do nothing, issue a public or private reprimand or request that Hedquist resign. Hedquist, however, is not legally bound to comply with a council resignation request.