By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
An investigation in allegations of misconduct by state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, has been formally dropped.
That was the conclusion of a Dec. 2 letter sent to Bouchard by Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, outgoing Senate President, on behalf of a subcommittee of the Wyoming Legislature’s Management Council.
The subcommittee was established under the Joint Rules of the Senate and the House of Representatives to determine whether there was probable cause to engage a formal investigation into allegations made against Bouchard of legislative misconduct.
Dropping The Matter
Although the subcommittee did find there was probable cause of misconduct, it’s choosing to not move forward with an investigation.
“The Subcommittee does not see any benefit to be gained from forwarding this matter onto an investigative committee,” Dockstader’s letter reads. “The Subcommittee finds that an appropriate punishment for your likely legislative misconduct would have been suspension from your committee assignments for the 2022 interim.”
That action happened in March when Bouchard was stripped of all his committee assignments for a “long pattern” of misconduct, Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, said at the time.
The Senate removed Bouchard from two main standing joint committees and the Management Council, bodies that meet throughout the year to discuss future legislation.
Basically, the subcommittee says Bouchard has already suffered consequences for his alleged unbecoming behavior and won’t face more penalties in the upcoming session.
“Legislature has already voted to remove you from your committees for a continued pattern of intimidating and disorderly conduct and other behavior, which was unbecoming of a member of the Senate,” Dockstader writes. “We hope this punishment served its purpose and you have learned to treat the public, lobbyists and your fellow senators with more civility and respect.”
Rule 22 proceedings are to be kept completely confidential. Although Dockstader confirmed to Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the consideration of probable cause had completed, he provided no further information on the subcommittee’s findings.
Bouchard provided Cowboy State Daily a copy of the letter.
“The investigation will not go further,” Dockstader told Cowboy State Daily.
Bouchard’s removal from his committees immediately followed a complaint made by Wyoming Hospital Association President Eric Boley in early March, which led to the Management Council meeting to discern whether a formal investigation was warranted.
Boley and Bouchard engaged in an animated conversation at the Capitol in which Boley accused the state senator of intimidation, bullying and that he called Boley a liar. A surveillance video without audio showed Bouchard raising his arms while talking to Boley, but making no physical contact with the lobbyist.
Bouchard said the heated nature of the exchange stemmed from Boley allegedly working around Bouchard to add an amendment to a bill he was working on.
When Boley wrote the complaint regarding Rule 22 in the Joint Rules of the House and the Senate, he said Bouchard’s behavior had to be brought to someone’s attention for corrective action. Boley also mentioned Bouchard being “combative and disrespectful” to witnesses before the Legislature’s Health Committee.
“Words, violence? I told the lobbyist: what they were doing was bulls**t and that I would take the committee video and show what they were saying,” Bouchard said in a Wednesday Facebook post.
Bouchard defends his actions as free speech and political discourse and said he was defamed by the way it was handled.
“You can’t just do this and not have due process,” he said.
Bouchard submitted a response to the complaint but provided no other evidence to the subcommittee.
Bouchard has been long known for his combative style of politics, often criticizing other lawmakers publicly on social media and during legislative proceedings. Bouchard once called Senate President-elect Ogden Driskill a “swamp monster” and Hicks a “slime ball.”
Dockstader accused Bouchard of “weaponizing video” by threatening to post videos of Boley speaking at committee meetings.
A Rule 22 complaint was also filed against Bouchard in 2017, for comments he made at a University of Wyoming discussion on the Second Amendment, where he joked about shooting an M-80 firecracker on campus to see how long it would take for campus police to arrive. A police investigation as a result of the incident was kept confidential.
Bouchard said like the most recent allegations, the 2017 complaint was political in nature and failed to identify actual misconduct.
“I was attending as a citizen and was engaged in a discussion with students and a faculty member about a topic I am passionate about,” Bouchard said in his response to that complaint.
Although the subcommittee would have needed a majority vote to determine probable cause, no other information about the confidential proceedings is publicly available. Although he issued a response to the complaint, Bouchard provided no other supporting evidence.
The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Rules of the House and Senate addresses the topic of ethics complaints in Rule 22.
Within this section, misconduct is defined as violation of Article 3 of the Wyoming Constitution; the Ethics and Disclosure Act; any of the Wyoming conflict-of-interest statutes; violence or disorderly conduct during legislative meetings, sessions or during performance of duties; and bribes.
Under the Wyoming Constitution, legislators have the power to punish one another “for contempt or disorderly behavior in its presence; to protect its members against violence.”
Most of the complaints leveled against Bouchard have pertained to his verbal conduct.
The rule states that complaints made for political purposes cannot be considered for legislative investigations. It also says that if probable cause is found of guilt, an investigation shall take place.
‘We’re Moving On’
“We’re moving on, on at least our side” Dockstader told Cowboy State Daily. “Everything has already been taken care of and we have notified the parties. We have brand new parties in the Legislature and we are getting ready for a new session.”
Bouchard was returned to the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee by Senate President Ogden Driskill last week. Sen. Tom James, R-Green River, another party in the conversation that Boley also made accusations against, wasn’t voted back into office.
Because the subcommittee determined probable cause but will not initiate an investigation, Bouchard will not get a public forum to defend himself against the finding.
“Discovery, open hearing, ability to face accuser, defense-right to counsel, proof of evidence was all tossed out in favor of a political hit job,” Bouchard said on Facebook.
If a formal investigation had taken place that found him guilty, Bouchard could have been expelled from the Senate with a two-thirds vote from that body, something virtually unprecedented in the Wyoming Legislature.
Even in 1913, when a brawl broke out in the Wyoming Legislature between Republicans and Democrats, no punishments were issued. At one point during the fight on the House floor, one representative supposedly smashed a photograph over another lawmaker’s head. The event was stricken from the House Journal from that day, but reported in the media.
‘I’m Going To Be Who I Am’
Bouchard said he has no plans to change any of his behavior.
“Where is my decorum bad?” he questioned. “I’m going to be who I am. I represent the people who elected me. I’m not going to kiss anybody’s ring.”