Wyoming House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, said House leadership met with Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, in Cheyenne on Tuesday to discuss a controversial meme Provenza posted on social media.
Neiman would not reveal any more details about the meeting, but had previously said House Speaker Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, and Minority Floor Leader Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, would be involved with the meeting.
The meme Provenza shared April 1 depicts an elderly woman holding a rifle with a scope and the words "Auntie Fa Says protect trans folks against fascists & bigots!" Auntie Fa is a reference to the left wing anti-fascist group Antifa.
Provenza shared the post less than a week after a mass shooting in Tennessee.
When reached Tuesday evening, Sommers would not confirm the meeting, but he previously told Cowboy State Daily that he, Neiman and Yin planned to meet with her.
Provenza and Yin also declined to comment about the meeting, nor would they confirm it happened or what may have been discussed.
The Wyoming Republican Party issued a statement about the meeting Tuesday afternoon. The GOP had previously called for disciplinary action be taken against Provenza. The party reiterated that position in its statement.
“The Wyoming Republican Party, regardless of what is decided today, continues to stand strong in the ideals of institutional processes that hold state representatives accountable,” the statement reads. “We do not support allowing such conduct as demonstrated by the Albany County representative to pass without consequences appropriate for her blatant promotion of violence.
“Other legislators have been removed from committee work or disciplined for misconduct, and disciplinary action should be applied consistently.”
No Public Notice
There was no public notice House leadership would meet in an official capacity on the Wyoming State Legislature website. Typically, when a governmental body holds any kind of meeting, public notice is made, even if the entirety of the meeting happens in executive session.
Under legislative rules, “An investigation instituted for political purposes and not connected with intended legislation … is not a proper legislative proceeding and is beyond the authority of the House or Legislature.”
Sommers said ethics complaints usually involve a confidential process. He previously confirmed to Cowboy State Daily at least one ethics complaint had been made about Provenza’s post.
Under the Legislature’s Joint Rules, a presiding officer, after consultation with the majority and minority floor leaders, may summarily dismiss an ethics complaint if it appears to be frivolous or submitted arbitrarily. That’s what happened Tuesday.
When a complaint is determined to be legitimate and legislative misconduct believed to have been committed, the presiding officer will forward the complaint to the appropriate subcommittee of the Legislature’s Management Council to determine whether there is probable cause to institute a formal investigation of the allegation.
The subcommittee in this instance would be the five House members of the Management Council, which includes Sommers, Yin and Neiman. Reps. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, and Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, round out the Management Council.
Sommers said the general public doesn’t typically know when an ethics complaint is filed, and he dealt with a few during the recent legislative session.
Sommers said he will decide on the complaint about Provenza in the near future, which he will communicate to the Legislature and in the form of a press release.
Provenza, the House minority whip, apologized for posting the meme after making it.
In her apology, she explained that she was expressing support for "arming and protecting the LGBTQ community, a group of people" that "depend upon Second Amendment protection.” This is consistent with the caption below the post she reshared.
Sommers said at the time that he doesn’t condone Provenza’s behavior, but said her apology "recognizes and apologizes for the potential negative impact of her post."
He also said she received death threats over the issue.
Bouchard Defends Provenza
One of the few people to publicly stand in defense of Provenza is Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, a common target for complaints over controversial posts he makes on social media.
An ethics complaint was filed on Bouchard this session for various social media posts he made about people opposing his legislation prohibiting doctors from performing transgender surgeries on minors.
“I want people to have free speech,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “You should be able to know what people that you have elected are doing and thinking.”
In a social media post Tuesday, Bouchard said Wyoming needs new state Republican Party leadership.
“I’m sick of catching the blame for the actions of Undocumented Democrats,” he posted on Facebook. “The GOP should be exposing them!”