Councilman Hedquist Case Continues, Construction Projects Still Unfinished

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Casper, WY -- A petition filed in January by the Casper City Manager's attorney gives us a look at specific charges the city has against Councilman Craig Hedquist in the conflict of interest case. Efforts to remediate the issue haven't amounted to much, and both parties are preparing for a hearing. Documents News 13 obtained give a glimpse of what the City considers overlap between Craig Hedquist's duties as council member and as construction contractor for the City.

Attorney Wes Reeves cites Councilman Craig Hedquist himself on cutting down wasting taxpayer money at his December press conference, accusing Hedquist of advocating for his construction company, Hedquist Construction, Inc. more than the citizen taxpayer.

Other than several alleged incidents of pushing around city employees, Reeves claims Hedquist also sought a competitive advantage by joining the Metropolitan Planning Organization's primary planning group for Natrona County.

Attachments and communications show HCI requesting change orders and extended deadlines. Internal City emails News 13 requested show that of the four ongoing projects HCI is doing for the City, all are past deadline and haven't reached final completion - although they are substantially there ("Substantial Completion").

Michael Lansing, Craig Hedquist's attorney, says that's being resolved. "We submitted two weeks ago a request for mediation to see if we can bring in a third party to go over the facts that we differ on the status of the projects and see if we can come up with a final damage amount if there is any," Lansing said.

The emails also show disagreement over terms of the contract, and late payments from the City. One email from Lansing describes instances where the City didn't go through the proper communication channels.

City employees tell News 13 construction never goes 100% as planned, but dealings with HCI have been complicated.
"Every other contractor has reached final completion," said Casper City Manager John Patterson. "On the arterials and collectors, we divided the city in half we had the East and the West, and the contractor that had the East side is complete," Patterson said.

Lansing says none of the delays or change orders have financially benefited Hedquist Construction. The company was awarded some seven million dollars in contracts last year (2013), and Patterson says the City can't refuse the lowest bidder.

"He kept bidding on these and so in May I talked to Craig about a train wreck coming in the fall if we couldn't help him in some way or another get through these, and so now, that train wreck has occurred," Patterson said.

"On one of the projects they ran into a little bit of an environmental issue that had to be addressed before they could move on, there were change orders in what was happening with some of the streets and locations, and so those add to delays," explained Lansing.

Councilman Hedquist must respond to Reeves' petition by February 5th. Meanwhile Hedquist will return from a month-long church-related trip to Asia at the beginning of February