By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
While inappropriate text messages sent by Gillette’s former mayor to the city’s former administrator may have been embarrassing, she did not violate any state law by sending them, according to an investigation into the incident.
In January, former Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King resigned from her position after numerous text messages she sent to former city administrator Patrick Davidson were leaked by Davidson himself. In the messages, Carter-King made insulting and derogatory comments about members of the Gillette City Council.
The City of Cheyenne was asked in late January to investigate the the behavior of the Gillette City Council, a request sparked by Carter-King’s actions. Investigators reviewed text messages, emails and other records from 2019 to 2021 and conducted numerous interviews with current city council members and others who were not identified.
The investigators concluded that while the city was basically “in good hands,” they did detect a failure to maintain civility and respect, an improper influence of elected officials over city staff, abuses of executive session meetings — when members of the public are excluded — a misunderstanding of the purpose of the open meetings law and the improper use of personal electronic devices.
“[The investigators] became aware of instances where elected and/or appointed officials outwardly displayed anger at other officials or constituents, maligned or undermined others by use of electronic communications and social media and failed to abide by proper rules of procedure at public meetings,” the report said. “These actions undermine the trust of the public in the governing body and are harmful.”
The investigators recommended that the city should eliminate the use of council dinners and council “pre-meetings,” “severely” restrict the use of executive sessions, provide proper notice of meetings, hold meetings in accessible locations for the public, restrict communications by elected and appointed officials using electronic communication to city-issued devices and remind elected officials to be civil and respectful when interacting with each other.
“Gillette city government has gone through a number of changes since the end of calendar year 2021 and it is with pleasure that [the investigators] note that nearly every recommendation arising from this review has already been implemented,” the report concluded.
Carter-King did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comments Wednesday.
Before her resignation, Carter-King took to social media to apologize to her constituents for the messages and explained that on Dec. 31, a number of the text messages she sent to Davidson while he was the city’s administrator were emailed by Davidson to the city council, the Gillette city clerk and an “unknown number of other individuals.”
After Davidson’s release, Carter-King acted on her own to release nearly 500 pages of unredacted texts between her and Davidson.
Many of the messages targeted Gillette Councilman Shay Lundvall, with one message calling him a “bumbling idiot.”
Lundvall also did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Wednesday.
In her resignation letter, Carter-King said she knew she would have to have “difficult” conversations with the city council members and others who might have been impacted by her texts.
“It was never my intention to hurt anyone, but I recognize that I have hurt people and damaged relationships,” Carter-King wrote in her resignation letter. “I believe that it is in the best interest in the City for me to step down from my position.”
Carter-King was first elected to the Gillette City Council in 1990 and served five terms in the position. She took office as mayor in 2015 and was re-elected in 2018.
A new mayor, Eric Hanson, has since been appointed to replace Carter-King.
“We recognize that [city council] has gone through a recent period which has damaged public trust,” Hanson said Wednesday. “We’ve made a lot of big changes over the last few months and look forward to moving ahead while continuing to rebuild that sense of trust with our community.”