By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
A Sheridan County Republican Party member has filed a complaint with the Wyoming Republican Party accusing it of picking and choosing which counties it punishes for rule violations.
Gail Symons formally filed a complaint with the party late last week, accusing it of ignoring four county parties that committed rule violations similar to those that have state GOP officials deciding whether the Laramie County Republican Party will lose most of its state convention delegates.
“That certainly undermines the State Party position of representing Wyoming Republicans,” Symons wrote in her complaint.
The Wyoming Republican Party is holding its convention later this week in Sheridan. During the convention, delegates from the state’s 23 counties will vote on issues such as the party’s platform and favorite candidates in August GOP primary races.
Before the convention, the event’s Credentials Committee will decide most of the delegates from Laramie County — the state’s largest and home to about 30% of the state’s Republicans — will be allowed to take part.
The county party has been accused of several rule violations during its own county meeting in March, including failing to vote for delegates and alternates on a secret ballot and failing to take nominations for delegates from the floor.
But Symons said Laramie County’s possible failure to perform a secret ballot when electing delegates was a “very minor infraction” and said there were other infractions she found in other counties that are not being punished.
For instance, she said, the Republican parties in Sheridan, Sublette and Albany counties failed to publish notice of their county gatherings in their local newspapers.
In addition, she said, in Sublette County, attendees of the county convention also did not vote on delegates using a secret ballot, and Crook County Republicans failed to notify the county’s clerk of their meeting.
“There is no reason to believe that the violations of by-laws for the five counties, including Laramie County, were a deliberate attempt to circumvent or undermine the integrity of the processes,” Symons said. “A decision to further diminish the validity of the State Convention in carrying out the business of the party on behalf of all Wyoming Republicans through sanctions in excess of the offenses will do significant harm to both Republicans and the party.”
Her statements echo those of Dani Olsen, chair of the Laramie County Republican Party, who told Cowboy State Daily last week that the state GOP’s selective enforcement of rules amounted to “voter fraud” and the disenfranchisement of 20,000 registered Republicans in Laramie County.
However Bryan Miller, chairman of the Sheridan County Republican Party, denied Symons’ claim and said the county party did publish a notice of its meeting.
“If Ms. Symons, as a Republican Party precinct committeewoman, or for that matter, anyone else who has a problem with the local party, they should feel free to address the issue within the party leadership before putting pen to paper for the world to see,” Miller said. “It would save her the embarrassment of being wrong in the public light – again.”
Roger Connett, Crook County GOP chairman, said Symons never reached out to him to talk to him about this accusation. He said he emailed the clerk as he has done in years past to notify her of the convention, of which he said she attended.
Although this notification method fulfills the Crook GOP bylaws, it does not meet the state bylaws.
The Credentials Committee will scrutinize the process Laramie County implemented to elect its delegates and will make a recommendation on the matter to all party delegates to rule on before the convention begins.
Martin Kimmet, Park County GOP chairman and a member of the Credentials Committee, said in a phone interview Monday morning he had not even been made aware of Symons’ complaint.
“People want to write rules and want things their way,” Kimmet said. “You just have to have a set of rules and go by it. I have a real compassion for the delegates from Laramie. They’d like to go to convention. In the same vein, we should make sure things are done right.”
Laramie County has 37 delegates set to attend the convention. If the Credentials Committee decides to do so — and its actions are backed by the rest of the convention’s delegates — it can keep 34 delegates off of the convention floor.
Natrona County is already limited to six delegates — fewer than 20% of its usual turnout — because of an ongoing legal dispute over dues with the Wyoming Republican Party.
Symons said she had received no response to her complaint as of Monday afternoon but had heard it would not be brought up at convention.
Symons is a member of the Frontier Republicans — a group that bills itself as encouraging integrity, respect and civil discourse in political discussions.
Meanwhile, state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne, interviewed on the Cowboy State Politics podcast on Monday, accused former members of party leadership of unfairly trying to “lay blame and point a finger on executive leadership.”
Eathorne said the Credentials Committee is doing its job with the review of Laramie County’s delegates.
“It’s up to the delegates and in this case the Credentials Committee … (to) decide if a delegate or delegation is legitimate or not,” he said.
The party’s executive committee chose to refer the matter to the Credentials Committee after receiving a complaint about the Laramie County GOP process from a party member.
Eathorne wouldn’t make any predictions about what will happen to Laramie County’s delegates at the convention but said due to the focus taking place on election integrity nationally, “this is not a good time to do anything administratively that would appear to rig an election.”