The Gillette City Council on Tuesday authorized a third-party investigation by two Cheyenne attorneys into a former city administrator’s allegations against former and current city leadership.
During their regular meeting on Jan. 18, the council unanimously voted to approve a resolution authorizing Michael R. O’Donnell and Donna A. Murray, both former state assistant attorney generals currently employed by the City of Cheyenne, to conduct an independent investigation into a series of disparaging text messages between former city administrator Patrick Davidson and former mayor Louise Carter- King.
The messages were revealed in an email sent to members of the council and the city clerk on Dec. 31 around 9 p.m. that contained over 400 pages of correspondence between himself and Carter-King, as well as screenshots of other conversations, that he believed they would find “insightful as they contain her unfiltered thoughts regarding members of the council and the public.”
In the email, Davidson alleged that Carter-King, while messaging him, mocked Councilman Tim Carsrud’s religious beliefs, implied that Council President Shay Lundvall lacked intelligence, and stated that Councilman Billy Montgomery could be manipulated to her will.
He also accused members of the council and Carter-King of taking illegal votes, coercing public employees, and using city resources to benefit councilmember employers.
“I commend you all. I know I work for you, and I know those words may be hollow from the standpoint of a third-person looking at this,” City Administrator Hyun Kim said of the resolution on Jan. 18. “But I do want to commend you all because you’re making yourselves very vulnerable here.”
There is no way for the council to know which way the investigation is going to go, Kim continued, adding that the two attorneys have more than 30 years of experience in municipal law between them and it is unclear where they could take this.
Kim said that the investigation is two-fold: first, it shows the public the city’s willingness to maintain transparency in government dealings upon the exit of Carter-King. Second, it serves to provide the council members some measure of comfort regarding Davidson’s allegations as well as paving the way for recommendations on how the council could make better practices in the future.
The two Cheyenne attorneys will limit their review to currently serving city councilmen, according to a city professional services agreement (PSA), and could include obtaining records, conducting interviews, preparing reports, and other actions “deemed necessary by Cheyenne to fully inform Gillette of the circumstances involved and to make such recommendations as Cheyenne deems appropriate.”
Kim assured the council during the Jan. 18 meeting that he, along with City Attorney Sean Brown, would work to ensure that themselves, city staff, and city resources are available to O’Donnell and Murray for their investigation.
Interim Gillette Mayor Nathan McLeland, ahead of the decision to approve the resolution, publicly voiced his gratitude for the City of Cheyenne for undertaking the investigation, expressing the importance, he feels, of having someone that has no ties to the city and possesses an intimate knowledge on how the council operates heading the process.
Lundvall, also ahead of the vote, thanked Gillette’s city staff for their commitment to transparency.
“That’s really what this is about, and I just want to thank you guys for working diligently to discuss it with council and review it and work through that the best we can, given what we have,” Lundvall said.
The City of Cheyenne will receive $250 per billable hour during the investigation, not to exceed $24,999, which is expected to be completed by March 1 at which point a report revealing any findings will be published for review by the public, per the city.
Davidson has not responded to a request for comment by County 17 regarding his intentions behind sending the email, as well as a request to clarify several statements made within it, though he did tell the Gillette News-Record earlier this month that he sent the email because the conversations were government records and that he did not release them publicly.
In his email to city staff and councilmembers, however, Davidson said that he had come across a backup of the files when he recently updated his phone, nearly ten months after the city announced that he was no longer employed as Gillette’s city administrator and less than three weeks after he started a new job in Elizabeth, Colorado, where he began his new job as town administrator on Dec. 13.
Also in the email, though he indicated that he did not have time to review the 400-plus page pdf file attached to it, Davidson made several statements that reflect an intimate knowledge of the file’s contents, including “it should be a good read.”
In that same email, Davidson said he would be sending another email that contained screenshots of text messages that reportedly showed “where the illegal votes were taken by the council, (Carsrud) defending his zealousness to please his employer using city resources, (Lundvall) coercing the building inspector to issue building permits to dangerous facilities, and other noteworthy issues, and of course, more from the mayor.”
Additionally, despite stating his intentions were to preserve government records, Davidson indicated that he found humor in the conversations within the file and implied that he sent it to cause a rift between the mayor and councilmembers as he specifically targeted Carter-King.
“Of specific humor,” Davidson wrote in the email. “There is likewise a photograph of (Carter-King) during one of the Zoom meetings. If you did not notice, her ‘name’ in the caption is ‘mfm.’ I will leave you a little creativity to determine what that is, but the last word is mayor and demonstrates what she perceives as her role versus yours with the council.”
The file that Davidson sent to the city contained 464 pages’ worth of conversations that took place between himself and Carter-King between Nov. 2019 and June 2020.
In that time, Carter-King exchanged text messages with Davidson that repeatedly insulted the intelligence of councilmembers, the Campbell County Commissioners, county employees, organizational leaders, and private citizens.
One such conversation referenced Troy McKeown, Jeff Raney, and Colleen Faber, the final candidates selected by the local GOP to fill a vacant county commission seat on Jan. 23 in the council chambers at City Hall.
“McKeown, Raney, and (Elgin Faber’s) wife. Monkeys think if they can’t get the guy they will get his wife,” Carter-King texted Davidson. “Every seat was filled. We have to fumigate the chambers and I want a new chair. (Vikki Kissack) ruined mine I’m sure.”
“That’s funny,” Davidson replied. “I’ll get it cleaned up.”
“Thanks, or trade mine out with Shay’s,” Carter-King continued. “It’s hard to believe those freaks live and breath here. Wow. (Robert Palmer) was clearly the most qualified but that doesn’t matter to them.”
On another occasion, Carter-King also texted Davidson that “Riverton is led by an idiot” during a Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) meeting.
In that exchange, Davidson simply replied with, “yep.”
Later that same day, the two had another conversation regarding a request made by the Campbell County Fire Board to increase wages for county firefighters through increased contributions from the city and the county where Carter-King indicated she would not budge funding-wise and that she did not care for Campbell County Fire Chief Jeff Bender.
“F U bender,” she texted Davidson.
On April 14, 2020, the messages took a different direction with Davidson taking the initiative and texting Carter-King versus the other way around. That day, he told Carter-King that he was tired of DG Reardon, then county commissioner.
“No kidding. He is a jerk,” Carter-King replied.
The two of them continued to disparage other members of the council during the following months, including former councilman Shawn Neary and Carsrud.
Days after the messages were released to the public, by whom remains unknown as of Jan. 21, Carter-King issued a public apology for her words, claiming responsibility for her behavior.
She resigned the following day, marking the end of a legacy spanning nearly 30 years during which time she served first as a councilwoman and later as Gillette Mayor after being elected to the position in 2014.
The Gillette City Council is expected to appoint a new mayor on Feb. 1.