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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, is facing his second ethics complaint in less than a year.
On Sunday, Green River resident Jennifer James filed an ethics complaint on Bouchard for calling her a “f**king idiot” in a private text message on Saturday night.
The expletive came while Bouchard was referring to his “Chloe’s Law” bill, legislation that would prevent doctors from performing sex change surgeries on minors and revoke licenses from providers who treat underage transgendered people. James said she awoke to the text message completely unprompted on Sunday morning.
“You are a f- idiot,” Bouchard wrote in a shared with Cowboy State Daily by James and him. “Stating that there are rules against surgery on minors, when actually they are actually doing surgery on minors.”
James said she was appalled that an elected official would address a member of the public in such a fashion. She immediately drafted a formal complaint to the Management Council Committee members, requesting investigation into the decorum and ethics violation. Her complaint was submitted around 11 a.m. on Sunday.
“I have always had respect for Senator Bouchard and considered him an intelligent Legislator, especially in the area of gun laws,” James said. “However, an elected official cannot simply belittle and demean individuals who disagree with his bill. I did nothing to provoke this text from him and don’t appreciate being cursed at and called names.”
James, a clinical nurse specialist and doctor of nursing practice, testified against Bouchard’s bill last Wednesday and said it was unconstitutional. She defended her comments as an act of free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
James referred to the Standards of Care provided by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, which states “genital surgery should not be carried out until (i) patients reach the legal age of majority in a given country, and (ii) patients have lived continuously for at least 12 months in the gender role that is congruent with their gender identity.” The Standards go on to say that “the age threshold should be seen as a minimum criterion and not an indication in and of itself for active intervention.”
With the text, Bouchard included a photo of Luka Hein, a 21-year-old detransitioner who testified on behalf of Bouchard’s bill. Hein said she regrets taking hormones and having transgender surgery as a teenager.
“Here’s one of the individuals that they supposedly aren’t performing surgery on,” Bouchard wrote to James in the text. “The double mastectomy at 16 years old-that didn’t happen??? Sorry, truth matter.”
Bouchard brushed aside the complaint on Monday morning and described his text as a similar act of free speech.
“When a licensed health care provider states in open committee that there are currently protections prohibiting transgender surgery on minors- in an effort to kill Chloe’s Law legislation, it deserves pushback,” Bouchard told Cowboy State Daily.
Chloe’s Law is named after 18-year old Chloe Cole, a California native who last week sued a nationwide medical group and its doctors who she said “decided to perform a mutilating, mimicry sex change experiment” on her, according to the lawsuit.
“I expect healthcare professionals to be honest in their testimony, Dr. James was dishonest,” Bouchard said.
James said she wasn’t being dishonest and was referencing a book devoted to instructing proper care for transgendered persons.
“We have standards for all aspects of medical care; ie. dementia care, substance use disorder treatment, etc. that providers need to follow,” she said. “The standards are created by professional experts and based on available research.”
James said she hadn’t had any direct contact with Bouchard since a phone call in January, when she called him directly to discuss another transgender-related bill. She said Bouchard hung up on her during this phone conversation, after he informed her he was sponsoring “Chloe’s Law.”
James expressed opposition to this bill, which was when Bouchard ended the call, she said.
Bouchard was stripped of his two main standing joint committee and Management Council positions by the State Senate during the 2022 Legislature as a result of a “long pattern” of misconduct, according to Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, at the time. A separate investigation was performed on Bouchard during the course of the 2022 interim session 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 for legislative misconduct. Although a determination of probable cause was found against Bouchard in this matter, the subcommittee declined to move forward with a formal investigation.
An ethics 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.
Bouchard described James as “a Karen masquerading as a Republican.”
James is married to former state senator Tom James. Tom James teamed up with Bouchard on many bills involving Second Amendment rights. Jennifer James ran for the State House last year but did not win her Republican primary.
“The voters in House District 60 really dodged a bullet during the last election,” Bouchard said.
She also ran for House District 10 in 2020, which overlaps with Bouchard’s Senate District 6.
What Happens Next?
The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Rules of the House and Senate addresses the topic of ethics complaints in Rule 22. Whenever an ethics complaint is received, the presiding officer is required to forward the complaint to the appropriate subcommittee of the Management Council to determine whether there is probable cause to institute a formal investigation of the allegation.
Misconduct is defined under this rule as violence or disorderly conduct during legislative meetings, sessions, or during the performance of legislative duties. Although the Senate Management Council temporarily removed its ethics complaint verbiage from its rules during the 2023 session, these rules will be reworked during the upcoming interim session and mechanisms still exist to take action against senators for alleged ethics violations.
All investigations into ethics complaints are kept confidential until a finding of probable cause is determined. At that point, a special committee can be appointed to formally investigate the complaint if the council wants to move forward with it. The council would then hold public meetings.
Jennifer James’ complaint is at least the second ethics complaint filed during the 2023 session.
Earlier this month, an ethics complaint was filed against state Rep. Jon Conrad, R-Mountain View, alleging that his status as a registered lobbyist in Wyoming, along with his occupation and source of campaign donations creates a conflict of interest for the lawmaker. The complaint was filed by Cody resident Vince Vanata, a Park County Republican Party committeeman.
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