By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
A dispute over a cell phone in a private legislative meeting last week resulted in a state senator being removed from the meeting by members of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
“Senate leadership…. just removed me from caucus using Highway Patrol,” Sen. Tom James, R-Green River, wrote on his Facebook page at about 4 p.m. Friday.
Wyoming Highway Patrol’s “Division O” runs security for the Capitol.
James did not respond to a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.
The incident occurred during a private meeting of state Senate Republican members, called a “caucus.” Although floor sessions and committee meetings of the Wyoming Legislature are recorded for public viewing, party caucus meetings are private events with rules against recording.
On Friday, the last day of the Legislature’s budget session, Republican senators met to discuss the redrawing of legislative district boundaries to conform with the latest census results, a process called redistricting.
James said Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, Majority Floor Leader Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Senate Vice President Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, had arranged for his removal from the meeting after accusing him of recording the proceedings.
James wrote in his Facebook post that the leaders “(accused) me of taking photos and/or video – I was not as that is against the rules – of the caucus with my phone, they said to put away my phone and I refused.”
“I told them I was not doing what they were accusing me of, but they still had me removed,” added James.
Commenters to James’ post were critical of Senate leadership.
“This is what happens when you stand with (Sen. Anthony) Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) and with the people, against the Nazi RINOs (Republicans in Name Only),” wrote April Poley, Bouchard’s campaign spokeswoman. “Thank you Senator James for being a reliable and principled conservative, and for standing against corruption.”
Hicks did not respond to an email and a phone call.
Dockstader and Driskill declined to comment.
“What happens at caucus, I’m not really free to talk about it,” Driskill told Cowboy State Daily.
Other Republican senators described the incident.
“I had my phone in there (as well)” said Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne. “And when they requested that we put our phones up, I put mine in my pocket and that was the end of that.
“What Senator James chose to do,” she continued, “that was his prerogative and not something I was involved in, in any way.”
Hutchings noted that Dockstader had told senators that no recording would be allowed.
“And it’s just being respectful of the caucus,” she said. “But I can’t tell you what Senator James was doing (on his phone). He was standing away from me.”
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, had a different vantage and said it appeared that James was holding his phone up in front of his body.
Case did not know if James was recording either – but “he wouldn’t put his phone away.”
“He said he wasn’t videoing, but he didn’t say he wasn’t (audio) recording. And he just flat-out refused to put the phone down or put it away,” said Case.
So leadership summoned Capitol security “and asked him to leave,” Case added.
Case said James exited the room peacefully.