Resident Who Successfully Sued Casper City Council Now Wants Answers
The Casper woman who successfully sued City Council for violating the Wyoming Public Meetings Act now wants to know what happened in the executive session when an illegal action was taken.
"So, I'm renewing my request," Debra Cheatham told the council during the public comment session today.
"I want to know what was done in that meeting," Cheatham said. "I want to know what your ruling was on my complaint, and what direction or instruction you gave to Mr. (former City Manager John) Patterson in that meeting."
Before her request, she highlighted the events leading to her lawsuit more than two years ago.
In 2014, Patterson denied that work on a retention pond at the Hogadon Ski Area caused silting in neighbors' retention ponds downhill, according to court documents.
Despite that denial, city crews cleaned one of the neighbor's ponds and Patterson paid another land owner $1,200 for him to clean his pond.
Cheatham brought her concerns at a council meeting on April 7, 2015, saying the city did not have the authority to allow Patterson to make that decision during an executive session. She asked city council to investigate what she believed was a violation of the Wyoming Constitution and the city's code of ethics.
On May 5, 2015, council members Robin Mundell and Ray Pacheco said the council reviewed Cheatham's complaint in executive session on April 14, 2015, made its decision and told her in a letter they couldn't say what was done. Then-Mayor Charlie Powell said the matter was closed.
Former City Attorney William Luben told the council that the Wyoming Public Meetings Act, in conjunction with the Wyoming Public Records Act, authorized it to discuss Cheatham's complaint in executive session because it was about an internal personnel matter -- namely about Patterson.
Cheatham hired Cheyenne attorney Bruce Moats and sued the city in Natrona County District Court.
Luben recused himself. The city council hired contract attorney Judith Studer to handle the case.
In April 2016, District Court Judge Daniel Forgey stated the city council must admit it gave direction or guidance to the former city manager during the, meaning it acted contrary to the Wyoming Public Meetings Act.
On Sept. 7, Forgey issued an oral ruling on the case by telephone to Moats, Cheatham and Studer. No city officials attended the hearing. After the council meeting, Interim City Attorney William Chambers said Studer did not tell him that Forgey would be issuing his ruling.
He granted Cheatham's motion for a summary disposition and agreed with her that city council violated the Public Meetings Act, and the Public Records Act had nothing to do with the matter.
After Cheatham's request Tuesday, Vice May Ray Pacheco asked Chambers what's next.
Chambers said he wants to review the transcript of Forgey's order before giving any advice to council.
Cheatham said she will be getting Forgey's order soon, and that will include a transcript of the hearing.
She then will return, she said. "I will renew my request."