Special Prosecutor: ‘No Violation of Election Laws’

A number of civil complaints filed with the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office by Edward Miller of Sheridan and Vicki Taylor of Banner, were recently reviewed by a special prosecutor to determine if the allegations held any validity. Sheridan Media’s Ron Richter has the details.

The Special Prosecutor, Crook County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Baron concluded that there was no wrongdoing by all parties named in the complaints. The complaints filed by both Taylor and Miller, allege that members of the Sheridan City Council and the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce engaged in activity that violated Wyoming Election laws leading up to the Special Election in November on Charter Ordinance #2202, the City Administrator Ordinance. Taylor accused the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce of violating the Government Ethics Act by using public funds allocated to them by the City of Sheridan in an attempt to encourage the outcome of an election.

Miller’s accusations centered around an incident that took place on October 30 at the Hub on Smith in Sheridan. Miller’s complaint indicated that election laws were violated by Sheridan City Councilors Rich Bridger and Patrick Henderson because they were at the Hub talking with others about the upcoming special election and “weighing in on the matter.” Miller also filed a criminal complaint with the Sheridan Police Department, alleging elder abuse and assault during an altercation with Councilman Henderson at the Hub on October 30.

Special Prosecutor Baron, in his report, concluded that nothing criminal occurred concerning the incident at the Hub between Miller and Councilman Henderson. He also concluded that the Councilors Bridger and Henderson did not violate any election laws while discussing the special election with patrons at the Hub. Furthermore, Baron stated that Miller’s words and actions may actually constitute election intimidation or possible blackmail, by threatening criminal action to compel action or non-action by a city councilman exercising their constitutional right of assembly and freedom of speech. Baron said that after reviewing all of the facts, there was insufficient consistent evidence in the reports that a crime was committed. The Special Prosecutor recommended that the Councilmen be advised that if further harassment by Miller continue, that the Councilmen consider a civil stalking protection order against Mr. Miller.

The Wyoming Election Code Violation Complaint Form filed against the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce by Vicki Taylor was also dismissed by the Special Prosecutor, as Baron stated in his report that there is insufficient evidence to show that public funds were used improperly in violation of the Government Ethics Act or a criminal law, as the Government Ethics Act does not apply to a corporation such as the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce. Baron said that nothing prohibits a contractor of a governmental entity from electioneering.

The Special Prosecutor report also included an additional investigation into an electioneering yard sign that was seen next to a desk in the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office on two separate occasions. Video surveillance obtained by the Sheriff’s Office showed the electioneering signs going into and leaving the County Attorney’s Office. Baron stated in his report, that obviously, the sign, or signs, were located within county property, but that it is not clear from the report whose desk it was next to, or what was the reason for the sign being in the office. Baron stated that video shows a person getting out of the passenger side of a possible grey SUV parked in front of a house.

The first person takes some yellow yard signs into the County Attorney’s Office. He said that later in the video, someone gets out of the driver’s side of the vehicle and does something with the passenger side of the vehicle, then goes back inside the driver's side of the vehicle. Nothing in the video shows anyone exiting the County Attorney’s Office. Baron concluded that the videos and reports did not indicate sufficient evidence that there was a violation of law. He said that it appears that someone dropped off some signs and they were immediately removed from the county building within 6 minutes, and there is no evidence that they were on or attached to the real or personal property of the County for display.