Mark Gordon And Chuck Gray Spar Again, This Time Over Wheatland's Failing Water Tank

Gov. Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Chuck Gray had another verbal altercation Thursday. This time, the two exchanged words over Gordon’s track record on giving money to Wheatland for its failing water tower.

Leo Wolfson

June 20, 20244 min read

Gordon Gray and water tower 6 20 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The town of Wheatland got another $1.06 million to fix a failing water tank Thursday, but not before Gov. Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Chuck Gray argued over plans for the money and Gordon’s recent veto of money from the Legislature to help fix the tank.

Over the past year, Wheatland has sought help from the state to replace a failing 1 million-gallon water tank that local officials say could cause serious destruction if it ruptures.

Gray had mentioned during Thursday’s State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) meeting how giving money for the water tower had first been discussed by the SLIB members in January, with the board granting $1.6 million in emergency mineral royalty money at that time.

Although $2 million had been included for the water tower in the biennial budget, Gordon line-item vetoed it in March, saying it was an inappropriate example of legislating in the budget.

He also mentioned how more mineral royalty grants would be available for the water tower in the near future.

Changing Plans?

Gray and Gordon have had a somewhat acrimonious public relationship, which doesn’t seem to have cooled.

The crux of Gray’s issue with Gordon about Thursday’s approval was what he saw as the governor flip-flopping his support on the project.

“There’s been a lot of different things said from the governor’s office on Wheatland,” Gray said.

The governor had also mentioned in his veto letter that state Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, voted against the budget, which he saw as a lack of support for the project.

Although Haroldson called Gordon’s comments “reckless,” “vindictive” and “likely unconstitutional,” he was seen having a friendly conversation with the governor shortly after the new money was approved Thursday.

Gordon slightly pivoted on the water tower money from his veto, recommending an additional $300,000 in mineral royalty grant (MRG) funds on top of what he had previously verbally committed.

Although the board ended up voting unanimously to disburse the money, Gray requested Gordon fully explain his official position about funding the project.

“I just want to make sure we understand what your position is at this point in time, because it has changed here three times,” Gray said.

Town of Wheatland officials say they're worried about the destruction that could happen to nearby property if this badly leading 1 million-gallon water tower fully fails.
Town of Wheatland officials say they're worried about the destruction that could happen to nearby property if this badly leading 1 million-gallon water tower fully fails. (Town of Wheatland)

Gordon Answers

Gordon described Gray’s comments as a “somewhat adventurous recount.”

He said when SLIB gave Wheatland money in January, it was with the expectation at that time that the board would come back in June and give more money.

Gordon said that was a more appropriate way of funding the project than doing it through the Legislature, saying that, “I don’t think that earmarks in the budget is an appropriate way to budget.”

Gray started to respond before the governor sharply cut him off with a more aggressive tone.

“We don’t need to go through this,” Gordon snapped. “Your point is, the governor didn’t appreciate what we did for Wheatland. He’s a jerk. I get it. I understand that you can make that point, but we have business to do here.”

Gordon continued and said he made the decisions he did with a positive intention and a desire to make sure the water tower replacement gets fully funded.

“There’s been no change of attitude here other than we found an additional $300,000 to deploy for Wheatland,” Gordon said.

Gray countered and described this argument as a “straw man” because he never called the governor names.

“I just want to make sure that we’re going to get this handled, that’s the big thing,” Gray said. “I don’t think the position has been clear, it’s changed quite a bit.”

He also disagreed with Gordon’s description of the reason the Legislature gave for the water tower money as an earmark.

“I think the use of that pejorative term is inaccurate. It’s good budgeting to actually lay out where these funds are going to go rather than just having lump sums,” Gray said.

Gray said everyone should be accountable for what they say and that “everyone is flawed.”

Gordon then asked the other SLIB members if they had any confusion about what his intentions are for funding the water tower moving forward. None said they did.

Big Money

Gordon said when SLIB addressed the Wheatland water tower last winter, it had every intent to fully fund the project eventually.

There was about $8 million in MRG money available to award to Wyoming communities Thursday. On July 1, new money will be added to this account, boosting it up to $25 million.

The Office of State Lands and Investments recommended using all of the eligible money in the MRG account Thursday for full funding 11 projects and partial funding for seven projects that came before the board.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter