State committee reinstates ousted GOP members
February 8, 2024
CODY — Elected members of the Park County Republican Central Committee who were ousted last August have been temporarily reinstated by a state GOP committee.
“The 22 precinct committeemen and women are free to resume their previous roles,” Colin Simpson said Saturday, citing a letter from the interim chair of the state’s Disputes Resolution Committee.
As a reinstated precinct committeeman, Simpson attended the February 3 meeting of the GOP caucus in Powell, during which members elected delegates and alternates to the county convention on March 2, reviewed the bylaws and platform and passed resolutions recommending changes.
Simpson expects that one recommendation will be to rescind the bylaw that created the dispute – the one that requires committee members to vacate their positions if they miss three consecutive meetings.
He said he had attempted negotiations with the state party’s attorney to resolve the issue of the ouster when the January letter arrived about the temporary reinstatement. According to the letter, the state chair stayed the proceedings about the Park County dispute while the committee dealt with related legal issues. Simpson said he doesn’t know what they are.
“Things are vague and quite up in the air,” he said.
The situation originated in November 2022, when the county GOP passed a bylaw saying members who missed three consecutive meetings lost their seats, according to a prior Enterprise story.
The committee invoked that rule when it ousted the 22 members in late August of 2023.
The following October, Simpson wrote a letter of protest to local and state GOP officers. He said the letter represented himself and 17 other ousted committee members – including his parents, Ann Simpson and (ret.) U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson – and noted that he was writing as a precinct committeeman, not as the group’s lawyer. He’d been unable to contact the other four ousted committee members.
In his view, the bylaw isn’t legal because it conflicts with state rules and even if it is legal, its adoption skirted party policy. Further, he said, the ousted members were not given notice about the removal and offered a hearing before the action was taken, as required.
“We have all had our precinct committee seats allegedly unlawfully vacated,” Simpson wrote, “and we object and demand formal reinstatement of us all who have had our seats deemed vacated, the cessation of the unlawful attempted removal of elected persons going forward, and the prevention of filling those seats which have been unlawfully declared vacant.”
Last fall, central committee chair Martin Kimmet said the bylaw offers wide latitude for not attending a meeting, “for any reason” – ranging from getting a flat tire and not wanting to fix it to attending the funeral of an out-of-town relative -- and said it complied with state rules.
In addition, Kimmet said someone unable to make a meeting can simply notify a local party official.
However, Simpson said, “That’s an unwritten rule that you could just call in” – one that wasn’t known to him.
Further, Simpson said sometimes it’s hard to find a proxy to fill in if you can’t attend, a practice the committee has allowed in the past. And sometimes he opts not to go to a meeting because the agenda is empty.
“I’ve gotten blank ones, so why attend?” he asked. “It doesn’t seem like a reason to attend if nothing is on the agenda.”
Since becoming chair of the central committee some seven years ago, Kimmet said he’s fielded complaints about the people who run for precinct committeeman and committee woman, get elected and then participate in few of the monthly meetings. Representatives from some precincts attend only once or twice a year.
Their infrequent attendance resulted in the bylaw, Kimmet said, noting that “I enforce the rules; I don’t make them.”
In his letter, Simpson cited Wyoming statute § 22-4-103 that outlines the conditions for creating a vacancy in a county central committee. The criteria are death, resignation, lack of a candidate or departure from the precinct.
“These conditions are the only conditions by which a vacancy in the county central committee may occur, and none of those conditions have been met regarding any of us that you have illegally deemed to be unelected,” Simpson wrote.
He also said the local bylaw was inconsistent with state law and when that occurs, state law trumps, and the local bylaw is unenforceable. He described the bylaw as “an impermissible attempt to expel elected precinct committee people.”
Finally, Simpson wrote that the process of adopting the 2022 bylaw was incorrect because it was done at a meeting with only 39 members present, “a meeting outside of the county convention and without the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the number of elected/appointed committee members.”