A group of members from the Wyoming Constitution Party is expected to lodge a formal ethics complaint against State Sen. Eli Bebout (R-Riverton), and the documents have been circulating among Wyoming Republicans the last couple days.
Specifically, the complaint alleges that Bebout in his elected capacity as Senator in Wyoming, voted on an amendment that could represent a conflict of interest with the company that he owns with others (Nucor, Inc.). The complaint also alleges violations by Senate President Philip Nicholas, the Rules Committee and Gov. Matt Mead. It has been brought forth by Jennifer Young/Goshen, Jeff Raney a Precinct Committeeman/Campbell, Vincent Naumu a Precinct Committeeman/Campbell, and Leah Naumu a Precinct Committeewoman/Campbell.
All ethics complaints must be presented to the Senate President for the review to begin. Nicholas said that while he has heard of the matter, he has not received a formal, signed copy but Young tells him it is on the way. Young has not immediately returned request for comment. The Attorney General's Office, copied on the complaint, has not yet returned a question about whether or not the complaint had been received.
Alleged Ethics Violation
Nucor has been awarded $26 million in Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) funds via contracts since 2011, the complaint states, including significant funding in this must recent funding session.
At the time of the vote including some of these funds on the final day of 2016 session, Bebout disclosed that he was "class of citizens" with interest in the outcome of the vote. The Senate adjourned for the Rules Committee to review the matter and decided unanimously that there was no conflict. In an audio recording of the decision read to the whole Senate by Nicholas on the final day of the session, Nicholas says Bebout has made his interest in the industry and potential receipt of funds known for years. The Rules Committee found no violation because the funds must still be bid upon and having the funds available is in the interest of all who might bid, not just Bebout. There were no objections from the floor to the committee's ruling.
"Senator Nicholas and the Rules Committee appear to be assisting in or condoning Senator Bebout's violation of the Wyoming Constitution, Wyoming Statutes, and the Senate Rules by failing to examine these potential violations," the complaint states.
"I would also like to know whether Senator Bebout, as a member of the Senate Rules Committee, participated in the consideration of whether he had a conflict of interest. If he did, that would constitute another conflict of interest," the document continues.
Bebout says he is taking the allegations seriously. "It is a very, very personal thing."
For more than 25 years, in his personal life he has bid on government projects and only one the projects when he was the low, most qualified bidder, he said. With this specific violation he said he was voting to move the federal AML dollars to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality's coffers, not for direct allocation to Nucor, as outlined by Nicholas earlier.
He noted that Wyoming's legislature is made up of private citizens who have jobs outside of politics. Does this mean teachers shouldn't vote on education bills or that retirees shouldn't vote on matters related to retirement benefits? he asked.
But, should an actual investigation begin, Bebout said he would cooperate fully and defend himself. "I'm all for the process," he said.
Bebout said he was "blown away" that Nicholas, the Rules Committee and Mead could be accused of colluding with him.
Bebout is up for re-election this fall. He has no Republican challengers in the primary and will face Democrat Chesie Lee in the November general election.
Pitchengine received a copy of an email that is reportedly being circulated among some Wyoming Republicans, which expresses disgust in the matter. Bebout confirmed he received the same forwarded email from other local Republicans.
"Sadly, the charges in this document are very damaging and appear to be anything but false," the email states. "We owe it to Republicans in Wyoming to put this information out there and seek to stand up for our integrity, lest this drag our image once again down in the manure pile. As a Republican I do find it extremely distasteful that Republican leadership has run afoul of Wyoming Statutes, Senate Rules and most importantly, the Wyoming Constitution. These folks took an oath of office to uphold our laws, to follow the rules and ensure the Wyoming and US Constitutions are vigorously defended. If we don’t speak to this issue we leave it up to the Democrats to put all of this forward in an attempt to make Republicans look like Hilliary Clinton wanna-be’s."
The copy of the email Pitchengine received is signed by someone named "Corey" and addressed to a "Matt."
"Democrats already will use the fact Republican leadership has over-spent even in the face of questionable revenue projections, ignored warnings from Conservative groups and flat out changed the rules on the Creg Report to show investment income as revenue in order to balance spending," the email continues. "I know we are innocent until proven guilty, but the facts shown in this letter leave little room to doubt there is guilt fits the complaint. With so much out there for us to gain in this election, can we sit by and say nothing or do nothing about this?"
Nicholas says that if the complaint is formally filed, it will be considered carefully. The letter asks that he appoint independent counsel because of his own alleged involvement.
#shortgo #county10 #springcity #county17 #oilcity #buckrail #reboot #dally #bootstrapped #news