By Joshua Wood and Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
After nearly two years of investigation by state and federal agents, Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo is facing six misdemeanor criminal charges and fines stemming from allegations that he attempted to use his position to land an engineering contract for his own business, according to court documents.
Kaumo also disparaged competitors during the bidding process for the contract, court documents state.
Kaumo is facing five charges of official misconduct and one charge of conflict of interest, according to an affidavit filed on Aug. 1. Each charge carries with it a maximum fine of $5,000. The charges were filed in Sweetwater County Circuit Court by an independent prosecutor from the Johnson County Attorney’s Office.
The charges stem from a nearly-two-year investigation by the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation and the FBI. The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office in August 2020 requested an outside investigation related to possible illegal activity within the Rock Springs city government, specifically related to a request for proposal (RFP) for the Bitter Creek Reconstruction Project, according to the affidavit.
The project total had been approved for $3,836,136 in total costs to improve the vacated mining area.
Requests for proposal are processes by which governments ask contractors to apply for projects.
Besides being the mayor of Rock Springs, Kaumo is also the president of JFC Engineers & Surveyors. JFC was one of the companies which had submitted a proposal for the project when the city asked for project bids from engineers.
From July 17, 2020 to Oct. 6, 2020, the affidavit alleges, Kaumo sent emails to members of the Rock Springs City Council regarding JFC and the Request for Proposals.
“Based on the language of the emails, (they) presented themselves as attempting to justify and sway elected City Officials toward voting for Mayor Kaumo’s employers and business,” reads the affidavit.
The emails also disparage the competing engineering firms, the document said.
Court documents further accuse Kaumo of using his position as mayor to obtain documents which, under state statute, are considered non-public documents. These included proposals from the competing engineering firms William H. Smith and Associates and Western Engineers.
Other documents included the grant project for the Bitter Creek Reconstruction Project, an internal evaluation form and internal score sheets. All were emailed by Kaumo to his business email.
The competing bids were then forwarded to the JFC vice president John Eddins, and JFC engineers Randy Hansen and Dan Kennedy according to the affidavit.
JFC was selected by an internal committee, but those involved raised questions about the cost of the company’s engineering services, which were two times higher than bids from competing engineering firms. The city council ultimately voted against awarding the project to JFC and made another request for proposals according to the affidavit.
After the second request for proposals, the internal committee selected William H. Smith and Associates. The affidavit alleges that Kaumo continued to disparage the competing engineering firms during an Oct. 6, 2020 meeting of the Rock Springs City Council. Following those comments, Kaumo did not abstain from the vote and voted against offering the contract to William H. Smith and Associates.
“(He) represented himself as both Mayor of Rock Springs and the president of JFC Engineering for the purpose of attempting to influence City Council votes for professional engineering services for his company JFC,” the affidavit claims.
Other charges relate to the disparaging comments Kaumo is reported to have made at the meeting.
Kaumo’s arraignment will take place at 9 a.m. on August 31.
Calls to the mayor’s office were not returned.