Casper, WY -- An absent councilman Craig Hedquist was at the center of an informal hearing Tuesday night: as promised, he did not come.
But Council listened to the City's witnesses and evidence that Councilman Hedquist is in violation of conflict of interest laws and ordinances.
Councilmen Goodenough and Sandoval tried to postpone the hearing, but were voted down, and the hearing moved forward in an obviously-lopsided way.
In an email sent to council members Friday April 25th, Hedquist said the informal hearing lacks any "real or legal procedures," so neither he nor his attorneys would be a part of it. Mayor Paul Meyer had told News 13 he was disappointed but council couldn't stop the ball rolling now, and needed to decide whether or not Councilman Hedquist is in violation of conflict of interest statutes.
Wes Reeves, the attorney for the city manager who's been tasked by Council with investigating the issue, laid forward his case. Reeves went so far as to say Hedquist wasn't at Tuesday night's hearing because he had no defense, and answering the claims would wreck his pending federal case.
Four witnesses, all city employees, described a pattern of abusing power. Public Services Director Rick Harrah described a request for detailed information on city work that the staff spent weeks collecting. "Mr. Hedquist, in my opinion, used that data to prep the 2013 arterials and collectors bid that he was going to be proposing," Harrah said.
Assistant City Engineer Jason Knopp told council he was worried about how dynamics with the city's biggest contractor would change even before Hedquist was elected to city council. He feels his fears were founded. "There's no way for us as staff to be able to separate him from contractor and boss at the same time, because he's both present no matter what he says," Knopp explained.
Councilmembers got a chance to hear or see the evidence firsthand, and that includes the infamous recording from a work meeting last summer, where Councilman Hedquist was found guilty of workplace violence against City Engineer Andrew Beamer.
"Craig Hedquist: You guys gonna start paying on time?
Andrew Beamer: Psh we've already had this discussion, but.."
Craig Hedquist: oh no, you (expletive) going to stand up (expletive)? when are you gonna start paying me?
Andrew Beamer: What did you say?
Craig Hedquist: You heard me
Andrew Beamer: I did hear ya
Craig Hedquist: Yeah. Yeah. The only part of the cotract that you comprehend is the side that i have to do.
Andrew Beamer: That is not true Craig but you know we can have this discussion another time."
(Listen to full audio above)
Beamer said since obtaining his position as council member, Hedquist has become entitled. "Entitled to unlimited contact with staff, unlimited contact with management and entitled to unlimited access to city records and data," Beamer told council.
After three hours of presentations, council didn't make any decisions Tuesday night, resolving to decide ten days after they get all the documents in hand. Councilwoman Kenyne Schlager (Ward III) tells News 13 she wishes Councilman Hedquist would simply resign. "I think all this could've been avoided by just a simple 'I'm sorry I didn't realize this had happened,' but unfortunately what we are continuing to hear is that this behavior is going to continue," Schlager said. Mayor Paul Meyer (Ward II) feels the best option would be for Hedquist to "learn from his mistakes," but "the most realistic is probably for this to end up in court and it be mandated," Meyer said.
Attorney Wes Reeves told Council he believes an abstention or "no" vote is an endorsement of Hedquist's actions.