Casper, WY -- Embattled Casper Councilman Craig Hedquist is making things personal, suing City Manager John Patterson in his official and personal capacity, and the City of Casper alongside.
The 40-page lawsuit filed Thursday in Federal District Court describes an alleged conspiracy on Patterson's behalf to undermine Craig Hedquist and retaliate against him for speaking freely. But other council members bristle at the idea that Patterson is acting on his own, and Patterson says it's just another attempt to avoid the real issue.
"I think it just shows desperation, I mean I think this is an attempt to take the view off the contested case issues off of the conflict of interest," Patterson said.
Craig Hedquist accuses Patterson of conspiring to remove him from office, and even trying to prevent him from getting there in the first place. Hedquist describes alleged secret meetings, and says City staff, under Patterson's direction, prodded him into the heated exchange that was secretly recorded.
"There is not a person that will testify that I did that because it is simply false," Patterson said. Councilman Hedquist is out of town and unavailable for comment. One of his attorneys, John Robinson, tells News 13 the case speaks for itself. The lawsuit also describes the rest of Council complacently giving Patterson free reign, but other council members disagree. Ward I Councilman Bob Hopkins says they are behind what council has done so far.
"I have nine bosses, one of them is suing me, but the other eight are solidly in control of this city, and I believe the situation, and they are the ones who guide my action," Patterson explained.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the idea that Patterson is undermining the democratic process, silencing the Ward II residents who voted for Hedquist. The councilman says Patterson didn't notify him of at least one meeting, and has been trying to essentially kick him out of office because of disagreements.
Patterson sees this latest move differently. "Craig is a victim -- it's never his fault. It is somebody else's fault. You know his behavior? What was it? He was prodded into it. Prodded into it by whom, the city engineer or me?" Patterson said.
The plaintiffs also claim the contested case hearing through which the City seeks to possibly remove Councilman Hedquist from his position is illegal and unconstitutional.
As far as the city's concerned, there is no change to the process they're engaged in. "[Hedquist] certainly has options to drop his side of the case, but I think in terms of where the city stands if there's been an allegation made, I think we owe it to take it to a contested case hearing," Hopkins said.
Janel Moore, who ran for office at the same time as Hedquist. is also listed as a plaintiff in the case, adding her voice to Hedquist's on behalf of citizens of Ward II, she says.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the City does not have authority to conduct the contested case hearing, and requests an injunction against the proceedings, as well as compensatory damages, attorney's fees, and punitive damages against Patterson specifically.
News 13 asked you on our website whether you think Councilman Hedquist should be removed from this position over this conflict of interest issue. Out of 190 people who had responded by 9:45 PM Friday, 91% agreed. Tell us what you think by taking the poll below.