Wyoming GOP Says Water Tower Veto Was Retaliation, Possibly Unconstitutional

The Wyoming Republican Party is questioning whether Gov. Mark Gordon’s veto of emergency money for a failing water tower in Wheatland was retaliation and questions whether he violated the state Constitution.

Leo Wolfson

April 17, 20245 min read

Gov. Mark Gordon's veto of money for a failing water tower in Wheatland continues to make waves in state Republican circles.
Gov. Mark Gordon's veto of money for a failing water tower in Wheatland continues to make waves in state Republican circles. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A veto Gov. Mark Gordon made last month continues to rankle some Wyoming conservatives who claim his denial of emergency money to replace a town’s failing water tower is a watershed moment.

The Wyoming Republican Party is asking its members on its website and social media channels whether they think Gordon’s line-item veto of $2 million for a failing water tower in Wheatland was unconstitutional.

Gordon, a Republican, said one of the reasons he made the veto was in response to Wheatland Republican Rep. Jeremy Haroldson’s vote against the overall budget that contained the water tower money. The party questions whether the governor’s veto wasn’t based on the merits of the issue, but rather a retaliatory message spurred by politics.

“Following the lead of local legislators who voted against the budget, thereby indicating their regard for the inclusion of this project in their budget, I have removed the provision,” Gordon wrote in his veto letter.

Haroldson described that act as unconstitutional in a March 25 op-ed. He told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday he hasn’t had any communication with the governor’s office since.

The state GOP asks its members whether it believes Gordon’s veto infringes on the Wyoming Constitution.

Kathy Russell, executive director of the Wyoming GOP, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about what the party plans to do with the responses it gets.

The party is holding its state convention this weekend, but that event’s agenda is already full, so it may be unlikely that the water tower veto is individually brought up at the event. Haroldson himself is chairing the party’s bylaw, resolution and platform considerations on Saturday, the final and most consequential day of the convention.

What Does The Constitution Say?

Although Haroldson leaned on the U.S. Constitution in his op-ed, the state GOP focuses on the Wyoming Constitution in its objection.

Article 4, Section 10 of the Wyoming Constitution states that any governor who asks, receives or agrees to receive any bribe or promises their official influence in consideration with any state legislator’s vote is considered bribery or coercion by the governor.

It also goes on to say this could include any governor who “menaces any member by the threatened use of his veto power.”

Although it may seem like the GOP is asking an innocent question on its surface, the way the question is written is layered with some possible bias against Gordon.

First, it describes Gordon’s proposed biennial budget as consisting “of large expenditures on his specific policy preferences.”

Although Gordon does present an initial draft budget that the Legislature works off, legislators can make any changes to this they want. However, any veto Gordon makes to those changes is final unless overridden by a two-thirds of legislators.

The party also refers to the final budget as including a “huge overall” increase in spending. The overall budget increased by about 14% from the previous biennium.

The party also specifically underlined portions of the state Constitution it believes could be applicable to his veto, including a section where it says anyone found violating this section “shall be punished in the manner now or that may hereafter be provided by law, and upon conviction thereof shall forfeit all right to hold or exercise any office of trust or honor in this state.”


Former House Speaker and Cowboy State Daily columnist Tom Lubnau said he believes Gordon’s veto was fully constitutional.

“For bribery, it has to be pro-quo,” Lubnau said. “You must threaten in return for a future action. Gordon doesn’t want or ask for any action.”

The timing of Gordon’s comments are critical to Lubnau’s point, as they came after Haroldsom already cast his vote on the budget.

“He’s calling Haroldson’s vote hypocritical,” Lubnau said. “Apparently, the Wyoming Republican Party doesn’t believe in the exercise of free speech in calling someone a hypocrite.”

But Haroldson told Cowboy State Daily the timing hardly matters as he believes it was an attempt to establish a pattern for future votes. He worries some legislators may feel inclined to vote in line with Gordon’s wishes because they fear he’ll veto their legislation if they don’t.

“I think that’s what they hope for,” he said. “I would hope someone would never change their vote. Almost every vote we make is based on what our morals and standards are. If someone can compromise or question their standards based on a governor’s veto, I would question those morals.”

Haroldson said he won’t be influenced by this perceived pressure.

“I’m not going to compromise my morals based on the governor’s beliefs and ideology and a potential veto,” he said.

Gordon And The Party

Relations between Gordon and the Wyoming Republican Party have soured over the past year, with the party issuing a vote of no confidence against the governor in 2023 for comments he made about wanting to reduce Wyoming’s carbon output in response to climate change.

Earlier this month, the Park County GOP went further and censured Gordon, an action likely to be taken up by the state party for consideration at the convention this weekend.

A spokesperson for Gordon told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday the governor won’t attend any part of the convention because he has prior obligations.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter