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Citizen meeting Saturday to support Mills fire fighters, discuss recalling town officials

Citizens gather at a Mills Town Council meeting in 2019. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Leah Juarez and other Mills citizens have scheduled a meeting to discuss strategies to save the Mills Fire Department for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1.

“This isn’t a gripe session, this is for strategic planning,” Juarez told Oil City. “The whole goal here is to solve the problems facing the fire department.”

The meeting location has been changed to 6:30 p.m. at the Beacon Club, located at 4100 West Yellowstone Highway in Mills. Interested community members are invited to attend.

Several issues will be discussed. Juarez says she has obtained an itemized budget from the Town of Mills for citizens to review.

“The budget may require small break out groups,” the meeting’s Facebook page states. “We will have a financial speaker to clarify the budget and his findings.”

Juarez said the purpose of reviewing the budget will be twofold.

On the one hand, she said reviewing the budget may help generate other ideas on how to fund the fire department and prevent it from being cut after June 30.

Juarez said they’ll also be digging into the budget to ensure everything is above-board.

Another reason for the meeting is to talk about the process for recalling Town officials. Juarez called for Mills Mayor Seth Coleman to resign during a May 22 Town Council meeting.

Other citizens passed around a sheet to begin petitioning for a recall of the Town Council. Juarez said the meeting will also strategize how to coordinate a petition and recall effort.

However, she added that rules in Wyoming are vague as to how town and city officials may be recalled. Juarez reached out to House District 59 Representative Bunky Loucks because he has previously introduced legislation to clarify the recall process.

Loucks told Oil City that he plans to reintroduce legislation that he originally drafted after some of his Casper constituents approached him with similar questions to those Juarez spoke with him about.

Loucks made it clear that he does not share Juarez’s views about the town council. Rather, he thinks Coleman has done a good job as mayor and is pleased that the town’s council has included some young, fresh faces in recent years.

But since some of his constituents are in Mills and because he thinks his proposed legislation is strong and is needed to provide clarity, he’ll reintroduce it during next year’s legislative session.

“It’s just a good piece of legislation,” he said.

House Bill 0160 failed a vote for introduction in 2018. Loucks said that he’s already had the bill placed on the agenda for the next legislative session.

Loucks explained that unless a town or city has passed an ordinance outlining recall procedures, “there really is no clear cut deal” as to how such an effort could move forward under current Wyoming law.

He says his proposed legislation would establish a clear procedure.

It would allow for any elected official to be recalled if these steps are followed:

  • A petition with signatures from 20% of the “all registered electors” calling for an election to replace the official must be submitted to the town or city clerk.
  • Signatures and addresses would be required with one of the signers swearing an oath with a “competent official” that the signatures are genuine.
  • The clerk has 10 days to verify that the petition has the sufficient information to begin a recall process.
  • The “governing body” will then establish a date for a special removal election. That election must occur at least 30 days after the clerk’s verification and before 40 days have passed.
  • “On the second Tuesday before the special removal election,” a special primary will be held.
  • The official who may be removed may put their name in for the special primary election.
  • The special primary requires more than two nominees, which may include the official facing the recall efforts.
  • Following the primary, the candidate receiving the most votes during the special removal election will take office and the incumbent will be removed.

Juarez said that from her perspective, the need for a clarification of the recall process had become apparent as the fire department crisis has arisen.

“We’re at the mercy of the mayor and his position,” she said.

Juarez added that getting people together for Saturday’s strategic meeting would be helpful.

“I think the thing that’s really been great is we’ve had so many people reach out to offer their resources,” she said.

During the May 22 meeting, Juarez had said she may consider running for the town council herself. She said those statements were not just mere words.

“I’m absolutely going to run for the council, that is the first open seat,” she said.

During the meeting, citizens will likely split up to work on different issues.

“We may break into small groups to pursue leads,” the event page states. “This is a strategy session. We understand the frustrations that have built up, but we kindly ask that attendees come prepared to problem solve and work together as a group.”

UPDATE: The meeting location has been changed to 6:30 p.m. at the Beacon Club, located at 4100 West Yellowstone Highway in Mills.

NOTE: Oil City was unable to reach the Mills Professional Firefighters union on Friday to check whether they were aware of the citizen-organized meeting.