A Laramie County representative is qualified to continue serving in the Legislature, Wyoming’s House of Representatives decided Tuesday.
Representatives declined to take action on the allegations filed against Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, rejecting by a vote of 36-24 a proposal to form a special committee to study the allegations he no longer lives in the district he represents.
“I’m grateful the House of Representatives affirmed my legitimacy to serve as a Representative for House District 43,” Zwonitzer said in a statement. “Voters of District 43 voted me as their Representative, and I consider it a privilege to continue to serve them.”
The action stems from a request filed by the central committee of the Wyoming Republican Party for an investigation into whether Zwonitzer moved out of House District 43 and was living in neighboring House District 10.
Zwonitzer has said his family bought a ranch outside of House District 43, but he maintains a residence inside the district so he can continue to represent it in the Legislature.
House members rejected the proposal by Rep. Tim Hallinan, R-Gillette, to form a special committee of representatives that would examine the claims and collect evidence before reaching a recommendation that would be submitted to the House.
Hallinan said he proposed the committee so representatives would be presented with all the evidence available before making a decision on whether Zwonitzer would be allowed to continue serving in the House.
“We’ve all worked with Rep. Zwonitzer, we respect him and we want to support him,” Hallinan said. “But we also have an obligation to the honor of the House to maintain our honesty in dealing with these issues.
“I think the House has a responsibility to deal with this issue so our people feel we have looked at all the evidence and have come to a reasonable conclusion,” he said.
Several legislators said while they believed such an investigation would clear Zwonitzer of any wrongdoing, the investigation should proceed so members of the public could see that the Legislature is serious about addressing such issues.
“I think it behooves us to do our investigation,” said Rep. Scott Heiner, R-Green River. “It sets a precedent so in the future we can continue to investigate allegations adequately and satisfy the public that we are doing our job. We’re not on a witch hunt, we’re trying to do our job as the legislative body.”
But others argued such an investigation was unnecessary.
“It’s a relatively simple issue,” said Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne. “The facts are simple and the decision is simple. There’s no need to have a committee review it.”
After the vote againsts the committee’s creation, House Speaker Eric Barlow declared the matter settled.
“I consider the question of Rep. Zwonitzer’s qualifications to serve in the 66th House of Representatives to be resolved in, before and by the 66th House of Representatives,” he said.
Zwonitzer is still the subject of a lawsuit filed in state district court in which four Laramie County residents are asking a court to force him to provide evidence of his place of residence.