The mayor of Wyoming’s second-largest city abruptly resigned Thursday, days after allegations that he physically attacked his wife during a trip to Texas last weekend.
Casper Mayor Bruce Knell has denied allegations that he punched his wife into a wall while they were attending the University of Wyoming’s football game against the University of Texas. The alleged assault caused her to have to get about a dozen staples and numerous sutures in her head.
Knell said in a letter of resignation he submitted to the city on Thursday that his reputation has been damaged to the point where he must step down.
“It is readily apparent to me that the City Council has abandoned me, band members who I have worked with for a number of years have ended their relationship with me and it is apparent to me that every effort is being made to destroy me to the public,” Knell wrote.
He also vigorously denies assaulting his wife.
“I did not hit, push or strike (her) in anyway,” he wrote, adding that because of the allegations, “I have been attacked repeatedly because of the allegations made by (her).”
He said she was “very intoxicated” and fell, causing her own injuries. He also said law enforcement in Texas investigated the incident and “did not charge me with any crime nor was I placed under arrest.”
An order of protection filed by Knell’s wife on Monday in Natrona County Circuit Court was granted by a judge. In the order, she accuses her husband of attacking her at their hotel room while the pair were in Austin, Texas, with friends to attend the game.
She said the mayor punched her in the head without warning, causing her to become knocked off her feet and hit a wall with her head.
“I was bleeding profusely, and it was running in my eyes making it difficult to see,” she wrote.
She said a bystander gave her a towel and called 911 on her behalf. Then she was taken to a hospital and received 13 staples and “numerous” sutures. She also suffered two black eyes, a bruised hand, bruised ribs, and a sore neck and back.
In the protection order, she also accuses the mayor of using steroids.
On Friday morning, the Casper City Council unanimously selected Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco to step in as the city’s acting mayor.
City Council member Kyle Gamroth nominated Pacheco as acting mayor. Gamroth suggested that Pacheco would serve for at least a few months.
“I feel like we kind of need to stabilize, we need to trite the ship,” he said.
Pacheco said the council’s top priority is that they regain the trust of the community. He described the past week as “very hard.”
“We are at a point that spending the last several days has been very difficult for the council. It’s been incredibly difficult for the staff, and I feel it’s been incredibly difficult for the community,” Pacheco said.
City Council member Amber Pollock was initially nominated for vice mayor, but she nominated Gamroth for the role as she said she doesn’t plan to run again for leadership in 2024. Lisa Engebretsen nominated herself, saying it would be important to have a female in the leadership position “in light of what just happened.”
The first vote drew a tie between Gamroth and Engebretsen. Engebretsen won the second vote.
Pacheco said he will not run for mayor in 2024. He said his top priorities are to do the business of the community and move forward in a positive direction.
After Pacheco made his comments, the council moved into an executive session.
Casper City Manager Carter Napier said in a Thursday afternoon press conference addressing the allegations against Knell that the city was not aware of any criminal investigation into Knell in Texas or Wyoming. But he said investigations could be forthcoming in either jurisdiction.
Knell was not at the press conference and Napier stressed that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In his resignation letter, Knell says he feels he’s already been convicted in the court of public opinion.
“In a country that is supposed to presume that a person is innocent until proven guilty, I have been convicted,” he wrote.
Napier did make a point to speak against domestic violence generally.
“The city takes the position that all acts of domestic violence are egregious, they’re inappropriate,” Napier said. “We have acts of domestic violence way too often in our community.”
Napier said Casper Chief of Police Keith McPheeters informed city staff about the allegations made against Knell on Monday afternoon. Later that day, Napier said he received a copy of the protection order that was filed against Knell.
At this point, he informed the City Council that a potential news story may be coming out about Knell. On Tuesday, he and the city council met about the issue in an executive session.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.