Can Gillette’s Mayor Be Recalled?

Protest
A sign held by a Gillette resident at Tuesday's city council meeting

The public outcry for the resignation of Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King continued Tuesday night during a protest prior to the Gillette City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting and during public comments. A group of around 40 citizens met outside of Gillette City Hall an hour before the 7 p.m. meeting with many holding signs calling for the mayor to step down. Others sought the resignation of both the mayor and all six sitting council members.

The protests and calls for resignations have been brewing for nearly two months, following the resignation of former City Councilman Shay Lundvall on June 10. Lundvall resigned after “liking” posts on Gillette resident Bob Vomhof’s Facebook page that some – including Carter-King and other members of the council – found “objectionable.”

The complaints to the city came from two out-of-town females who objected to the “sexist” nature of the controversial posts, prompting city leaders to take action.

Lundvall broke his silence on the matter in a July 11 Facebook post, saying he had initially withheld comment on advice of law enforcement. He further stated that he and his family had been threatened if he didn’t resign and that an investigation is currently underway.

“They went on to threaten that the repercussions of those likes could have an impact on my wife’s career as a school counselor in the School District as well as our children’s future living in Gillette,” Lundvall wrote in his post.

The Gillette Police Department did not immediately return a call to verify whether an investigation is underway.

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On June 30, the council chose local businesswoman Laura Chapman from among seven candidates who applied to fill the empty Ward 3 seat. Both Chapman and Lundvall plan to run for the seat when it becomes open again this fall.

Vomhof was among those protesting Tuesday, calling for the Mayor’s resignation. This follows the group’s earlier attempts to file a petition demanding that Carter-King be recalled, on which they gathered thousands of signatures. Now, they are calling for her resignation.

The question is whether or not either can be actually be done.

According to Gillette City Attorney Anthony Reyes they cannot. Legally, he said, there’s no statute granting that an elected official be forced to step down.

“There is no mechanism in the state of Wyoming by which an elected official can be recalled,” he said by phone Thursday.

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Reyes said statutes concerning recalls address specific forms of government, and do not apply to the mayor and city council.

Mayor Carter-King or any other elected official can choose to resign, he clarified, but they can not be forced.

A spokesperson from the Wyoming Attorney General’s office said they cannot render an opinion on a matter for which there isn’t a current case.

Responding to a request for comment Thursday, City of Gillette Communications Manager Geno Palazzari also had no comment.

“The City Council released a statement about a month ago regarding Mr. Lundvall’s resignation,” Palazzari wrote in an email. “In that statement, the Council said that they would not comment further.”