CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming law is ambiguous when it comes to citizens’ ability to recall elected town or city officials.
This became a point of concern for some Mills citizens displeased with the Mills Town Council’s decision to eliminate their fire department, with the exception of an administrative decision, in 2019.
The town council walked back that decision after reaching an agreement with the Mills Professional Firefighters union to continue funding the fire department.
Before that agreement had been reached, however, some citizens began circulating a petition to recall Mayor Seth Coleman over the decision to cut the fire department.
Leah Juarez was among those seeking a recall of the mayor, publicly asking Coleman to resign during a May 22, 2019 town council meeting.
While some citizens were still interested in recalling the mayor, Juarez says that she reached out to House District 59 Representative Bunky Loucks who had previously introduced legislation that would clarify the recall process.
Tha legislation failed a vote for introduction in the Wyoming Legislature in 2018. But Loucks has had the bill reintroduced for consideration during the upcoming legislative session, which begins on Feb. 10.
Since it is a budget session, the bill requires a two-thirds vote from either the Wyoming House or Senate in order to be considered on the floor this year.
Loucks said in May 2019 that his introduction of the bill was not specifically related to the conflict between Mills citizens and their town council.
He made it clear that he did not share Juarez’s views about the town council. Rather, he said he thought Coleman had been doing a good job as mayor.
He said the legislation is needed to clarify rules in Wyoming.
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.
“It’s just a good piece of legislation,” he said.
The legislation 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.