City Council Hears From Attorneys on Hedquist Conflict of Interest Matter
Casper City Council on Tuesday heard from attorneys representing the city of Casper and councilman Craig Hedquist, who is accused of breaking state conflict of interest laws.
The attorneys during the regular session attempted to sway council for the better part of two hours. The presentations were in reaction to Cheyenne-based arbiter Sharon Rose's recommendation that the city not move forward with a planned contested case hearing against Hedquist.
Wes Reeves, who was in attendance on behalf of city manager John Patterson and the city of Casper, told council that Rose likely misunderstood the city’s intent. He said, specifically, if city council found Hedquist guilty of conflict of interest violations during the hearing, removal from office wouldn't be the only option.
“It could include a public censure (or) reprimand, (or) it could include a ... council resolution that Mr. Hedquist should resign,” Reeves said.
Reeves also refuted claims from Hedquist attorneys that council isn't actually allowed do anything in regard to the matter.
“What Mr. Valdez - or somebody on behalf of Craig Hedquist - is going to say in a minute is that you're powerless to do anything,” Reeves said.
Tom Valdez, who represented Hedquist on Tuesday, echoed Rose's recommendation to council. He said the body couldn't remove Hedquist from office unless he was convicted of a felony, a crime of moral turpitude, or any crime involving ethics.
“I just could not imagine how a city manager could file a petition to remove an elected official off of a city council,” Valdez said. “I knew there had to be a gross violation of something.”
And that something, Valdez said, was Municipal Code 2.64, which was passed by council in 1999.
“The only grounds for removal that is provided under 2.64 is the conviction of certain statutory and municipal crimes,” Valdez said. “Craig Hedquist has not been convicted of any of the crimes enumerated in 2.64.”
Council can also remove a councilperson under 2.64 if the individual is found by a court to be mentally incompetent or insane, or if the councilperson missed three consecutive meetings without an excuse.
Hedquist, who was in attendance for the majority of Tuesday’s meeting, excused himself before the presentations began.
The city claims Hedquist attempted to use his political power to leverage favorable contract terms and better road construction deals for Hedquist Construction.
Hedquist was also accused of committing workplace during a construction progress meeting in August. According to a conduct report drafted by Casper attorney former city councilor Kathleen Dixon, Hedquist allegedly hurled several insults and challenges at city engineer Andrew Beamer and demanded payments for what he believed was additional work.
In December, Hedquist apologized for using what he called “unfiltered language” during the exchange with Beamer. He has since been asked to alter the way in which he communicates with city staff.
City officials also claim that, currently, Hedquist Construction is breaching four contracts with the city. Judy Studer, a city-hired attorney who oversaw a contract discussion during Tuesday's meeting, said claims related to the four projects total over $1 million.
City manager John Patterson said council will likely not make a decision on whether to move forward with the contested case hearing against Hedquist until next week or later.