Casper City Council is moving forward with updating the public service code of ethics after a majority vote on Tuesday. The changes would allow council to boot out a councilmember for sexual harassment, workplace violence, or creating a hostile workplace environment for city employees.
Councilman Steve Cathey says, "For a violation of tort law by any member of this council there are no consequences. That is placing us above the rest of the public. We aren't there. We put our pants on the same way everybody else does."
The changes are a response to the year-long process council has gone through with the workplace violence and conflict of interest investigations of Councilman Craig Hedquist, which eventually led council to vote and ask for Hedquist’s resignation. He refused, and council has no power to actually enforce his resignation. Under the new provisions, council could remove one of their own with a two-thirds vote.
Vice Mayor of City Council Charlie Powell says, "I just think we have to believe that a 2/3rds majority of this body is a very difficult consensus to achieve and that no future council would go to all this trouble and create and all of this controversy just to remove someone they didn't like.”
The changes aren’t going unopposed; some believe council should be careful what they wish for, as anyone could be taken off council just as easily. Attorney Mike Lansing says, "Could a mere accusation under one of these provisions trigger a contested case against anyone of your... probably." Casper Resident Arliss Hedquist agrees. Hedquist "Maybe next term it's you or your industry that four or five people don't like. They may propose rules that make it impossible for your local business to operate at home."
Councilmembers decided to add an amendment to the ordinance giving themselves a two-third vote to censure, or give a written reprimand to a councilmember for a violation.
The new provisions have not yet been passed. They must go through a third and final reading before the changes are adopted into the code of ethics.