An unpaid $40,000 legal bill incurred by Uinta County Republicans has hit the radar of the Wyoming Republican Party to the point of holding an executive session to discuss it at the party’s state Central Committee meeting earlier this month.
Later in the day, the party voted to put most of the private discussion into the regular public minutes of the meeting, which have not yet been published.
A Central Committee member, who spoke to Cowboy State Daily on condition of not being identified, said that during the executive session, Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne put Uinta County GOP State Committeeman Ron Micheli on speakerphone in front of the committee to inquire about the matter. There were no representatives from Uinta County physically at the meeting.
Micheli, state Rep. Jon Conrad, R-Mountain View, Clarence Vranish and other local residents filed a civil lawsuit about the Uinta County party’s 2021 leadership elections. The plaintiffs lost in Uinta County District Court but that ruling was reversed on appeal by the Wyoming Supreme Court in May.
Before that final ruling was issued, Micheli, a 2008 gubernatorial candidate, was elected to be a state committeeman this spring. This created a confusing situation where in some ways, Micheli was suing himself as a representative of the party, and putting himself on the hook for paying the opposing sides’ legal bills.
What Was Said?
During the phone call, Micheli told Eathorne that the county party offered to pay Cheyenne attorney Caleb Wilkins $10,000 for his legal services in representing the former party leadership on the case. The total bill is $40,000, according to the central committee member.
When Wilkins rejected that offer, a proposal was made that the parties enter into mediation, an option Micheli said his county party rejected.
The nature of these comments mostly aligns with the information discussed at the Uinta County GOP’s September meeting. Referring to minutes from the meeting, East Vice Chairman Jay Anderson told Cowboy State Daily that after the party offered to “settle” with Wilkins, the Wyoming State Bar proposed that the parties enter arbitration, which the county party rejected.
The state Central Committee member said the issue became a topic of discussion for the state party after it received a proposal to assist the Uinta County GOP with its legal bill.
The leadership of the Wyoming GOP is aligned with the former leadership of the county party and indicated at multiple junctures that it sided with them in the lawsuit.
Micheli told Cowboy State Daily shortly after being elected in March that he and the other new officers would pay the legal debts, but offered no specifics of how that would happen.
Neither Micheli, state committeewoman Patty Micheli or Uinta County GOP Chairman Joy Bell responded to repeated Cowboy State Daily requests for comment for this story.
“It’s a work in progress,” Anderson said. “This is where it’s at.”
It’s unclear what will happen next with the unpaid fees. Wilkins did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.
Typically, when legal fees and other debts go unpaid, the issue is sent to a collection agency and then court.
As far as its dues to the state party, the Uinta County GOP is completely paid up.
“I think the current leadership is doing an excellent job,” Anderson said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.