By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
A former speaker of Wyoming’s House is resigning as a member of the state Republican Party’s leadership, citing differences with the actions and ethics of the state party.
Tom Lubnau, a 10-year legislator, is resigning his position as state committeeman with Campbell County Republican Party, a position that makes him a member of the state GOP’s central committee.
“The lack of integrity, toxicity and the move toward secrecy have convinced me to resign from this position,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
Lubnau declined to make any further comment to Cowboy State Daily.
Lubnau’s letter of resignation was submitted to Heather Herr, chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party, on Saturday afternoon, while the state GOP convention was ongoing.
Herr did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
In his letter, Lubnau said he was convinced to leave the central committee by the party’s adoption of a new “alternate dispute resolution process” which he compared to a secret court or “star chamber.”
“The system provides for secret proceedings, without notice or rules, standards of conduct which may be enforced, and unappealable legal judgments rendered in secret by a panel which cannot be challenged for bias,” Lubnau wrote. “The program is an affront to our legal system and reminds me of the Star Chamber proceedings under King Charles I.”
The process approved by the more than 250 delegates to the party’s convention last weekend is designed to resolve in-party disputes. Its work will be overseen by an Investigative Committee and Dispute Resolution Committee. No members outside the party or attorneys are allowed to represent parties in these conflicts.
Members of the Dispute Resolution Committee will be hand-picked by the state party’s chairman, currently Frank Eathorne of Douglas.
Eathorne and Brian Schuck, the party’s attorney, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.
Lubnau said although he has vocally criticized the state party’s leadership in the past, the “triggering” event for him was the passage of the dispute resolution process.
“The willingness of constitution-loving Republicans to subjugate themselves to the whims of the Party Chairman is frightening,” Lubnau wrote. “The willingness to give up constitutionally protected rights in the name of expediency and quashing dissent is appalling.”
The bylaw addition was considered by the Bylaws Committee and then passed by the state’s delegates on Saturday with no input from the state central committee.
This bylaw was originally proposed by the Weston County Republican Party.
Kari Drost, Weston County GOP chairman, defended the bylaw in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
“It was a grassroots effort out of Weston County with the goal to settle disputes within the party rather than with a lawsuit,” she said. “I think it’s a great policy that had wonderful support in Weston and the state GOP.”
Another bylaw approved on Saturday addressed lawsuits filed against the party, specifying that anyone who files lawsuits against the state or county parties without going first to the new Dispute Resolution Committee will have to pay the legal fees of the group being sued.
Lubnau said these new bylaws infringe on the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Lubnau in January was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Eathorne and the state Republican Party central committee, challenging the way three nominees for the vacant office of superintendent of public instruction were selected.
At the time Lubnau said the process used to select nominees for submission to Gov. Mark Gordon was unconstitutional because it violated the “one man-one vote” principle of the Equal Protection Clause in both the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions.
The Natrona County Republican Party is also involved in a lawsuit against the Wyoming Republican Party over dues.
In his letter, Lubnau said the party has “drifted away from” him. After serving as a state committeeman in the late 1980s, he was elected to the state House five times and Republican House Caucus leadership three times.
Lubnau said he had hoped that he could help the party alter its course but has now lost this faith and wants the Campbell County party represented on the state central committee by someone who doesn’t share his “trepidation and distrust.”
“It’s very unfortunate,” said Randy Okray, a Campbell County GOP precinct committeeman who has been friends with Lubnau for a number of years. “He’s one of the most intelligent and upstanding people that we have.”
Lubnau was elected by the county party’s voters in 2020 for a term as state committeeman that started in January 2021. However, he will not finish out the rest of his two-year term.
The Campbell County GOP central committee will be responsible for filling his position within 30 days of his notice.