By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune
Leaders of the Park County Republican Party have decided not to take action against a precinct committeeman for a vulgar email he sent to a state lawmaker last month.
At a Thursday meeting in Cody, members of the party’s central committee rejected a motion that would have asked Troy Bray to resign and then narrowly voted down a motion to censure him. The party held its nearly hour-long discussion in a closed-door executive session and told the roughly two dozen members present to not speak about it, leaving the details unclear.
While not commenting on what was discussed, Park County Republican Party Chairman Martin Kimmet said no one on the central committee condones what Bray said to state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne.
“Any sane person knows one does wrong when they say something like that,” Kimmet said.
However, the chairman expressed frustration about the amount of attention paid to the email, saying the press and others have “beat this thing to death” despite Bray apologizing.
“How much of a pound of flesh do you want? They made it so tough that the man [Bray] lost his job … because he used a couple profanities,” Kimmet said. “Is that justice? I don’t think so.”
“I think that is as big a wrong or more of a wrong than using those profanities,” Kimmet added. “He was exercising his First Amendment rights,”
In Bray’s Sept. 12 email, the Powell resident expressed anger about Nethercott’s handling of a bill last winter that sought to prevent coerced vaccinations. Bray said the legislation — which was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-1 vote — would have negated President Joe Biden’s ongoing efforts to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations (Nethercott says the bill would have had little effect.) The rest of Bray’s message criticized Nethercott, saying she’d ensured that Wyomingites would be subjected to tyranny.
“If I were as despicable a person as you, I would kill myself to rid the world of myself,” he wrote in part to the Senate Judiciary chairwoman, concluding with the line, “F— YOU C—.”
Bray signed it with his titles as a precinct committeeman and as secretary of Park County Republican Men’s Club. When they learned of the email, the men’s club requested Bray’s resignation, which he gave, and both it and Kimmet reached out to Nethercott to say the message didn’t represent their groups.
After the contents of Bray’s message were published by the Casper Star-Tribune, the Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives, Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, and Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, called on Bray to resign his position within the Park County Republican Party.
“Attacking a state legislator through use of violent, lewd and derogatory language cannot and will not go unanswered in Wyoming,” Barlow and Dockstader wrote on Sept. 22, calling on the county and state parties to join them in seeking Bray’s resignation.
Three newspapers around the state also denounced the remarks in editorials and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Sam Galeotos did the same in a weekend column, calling for “a more forceful cry for censure and resignation” from the state and county parties, lawmakers and the Park County community. Galeotos said that pursuing accountability would discourage similar episodes and “go a long way toward promoting civil debate as a continuing standard in Wyoming.”
In an Oct. 1 statement, the Wyoming Republican Party called Bray’s comments inappropriate, obscene and vile — and said that type of communication “is neither appropriate or effective.”
However, “despite calls by the liberal media and others to dictate from the top down in a heavy-handed fashion, the party will not engage in ‘cancel culture’ tactics, nor will we participate in destroying people for poor decisions, judgment, and behavior,” the Wyoming Republican Party statement said in part. The party said the matter should be handled at the county level.
Bray apologized to Nethercott for the “inappropriate” language he used in the email — specifically the final word — but resisted the calls to resign his position as precinct committeeman.
In a Facebook post in September, Bray said he wouldn’t be bullied — and that the “cowardice and pettiness” shown by Nethercott and her supporters amid the controversy “proves every other word of my e-mail.” In an interview, Bray said he lost his job after his employer received a steady stream of phone calls complaining about his message.
Ahead of Thursday evening’s Park County Republican Party Central Committee meeting, Bray invited any local Republicans — and specifically those from his precinct, which encompasses much of the southern part of Powell — to a morning meeting at the Red Zone Sports Bar and Grill.
Only a few people showed up.
“My take on it is nobody really is that upset about it [the email],” Bray said of the low turnout. “I’m not taking it as a sign that everyone said they would have said the same thing, but they weren’t terribly upset.”
However, one of the people who attended Bray’s precinct meeting was Josh Shorb, a rural Powell Republican who took issue with the email.
“I didn’t agree with the language he used,” Shorb said in an interview. “… I said, ‘I don’t care if you would have wrote her a letter that the sky is blue and then used that language.’ The message … with what he disagreed with is immaterial to me; it’s the language. You don’t talk to somebody like that and you don’t talk to a lady like that.”
Shorb also said he felt like “there’s some things you just can’t apologize for.”
At the central committee meeting, held at the Cody Cowboy Church, Shorb served as a proxy for another committee member and made a motion to ask Bray to resign his position.
Before he finished the sentence, other members of the party called for the subject to be taken up in a closed-door executive session. Attendees who weren’t members of the central committee were then asked to step outside the church, while committee members were told to turn off their cellphones and place them on a table in the front of the sanctuary.
The county party’s handling of the discussion differed from past efforts to censure then-state Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, in 2014 and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., earlier this year, which were held in the open. The Park County Republican Party’s bylaws don’t address executive sessions, but Kimmet indicated the decision was based on Robert’s Rules of Order.
In interviews, both he and Bray indicated the issue is now over with.
“The man did something wrong, he apologized for it … and Sen. Nethercott accepted that apology,” Kimmet said. “To me, that’s where it should have ended instead of certain people and certain press making a political issue of it. Really, it wasn’t a political issue, it was a personal issue.”
Other people “should have stayed out of it, and they cost that poor man,” Kimmet said, referring to the loss of Bray’s job. The chairman said there were more important issues, specifically naming the Cody school board’s spending and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Compared to other meetings the party has held this year, Thursday’s gathering had low attendance, with only 27 of the party’s roughly 75 precinct committeemen and women or their proxies present, representing 36 votes at the start of the meeting.