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No further investigation of Bouchard for misconduct

By Jasmine Hall
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE – State Sen. Anthony Bouchard will not be the subject of a formal investigation following a misconduct complaint filed in March, and he was assigned to serve on a committee in the upcoming year.

Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, received a letter from Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, that said there was probable cause to believe he committed legislative misconduct, as defined in Joint Rule 22, after a review by a subcommittee of the Management Council, but no action would be taken.

Bouchard provided the letter to Cowboy State Daily, which published it online Wednesday.

“The subcommittee does not see any benefit to be gained from forwarding this matter on to an investigative committee,” the letter stated. “The subcommittee finds an appropriate punishment for your likely legislative misconduct would have been suspension from your committee assignments for the 2022 interim.”

That was done after a vote by the full Senate at the end of the 2022 budget session.

The reason given was a “continued pattern of intimidating and disorderly conduct and other behavior that was unbecoming of a member of the Senate,” but it didn’t relate to the complaint against Bouchard.

“We hope this punishment served its purpose, and you have learned to treat the public, lobbyists and your fellow Senators with more civility and respect,” Dockstader wrote in his letter.

Dockstader said the Senate removed Bouchard from all of his committee assignments under rules and constitutional authority to punish its members.

Dockstader further stated that only the full Senate can restore a lawmaker’s committee assignments, and the subcommittee found “that determination lies first with the President and ultimately with the entire Senate of the 67th Wyoming Legislature.”

The letter was signed by Dockstader, who copied it to members of the subcommittee and Legislative Service Office Director Matt Obrecht.

An official copy was not provided to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, because an LSO representative said Wednesday that the records of the subcommittee, which was appointed to review the complaint, are confidential pursuant to Joint Rule 22.

LSO will not release any documents associated with the committee’s review or announce its findings.

Dockstader also told the WTE he wouldn’t comment on the letter Wednesday, but acknowledged that Bouchard had a committee assignment for the upcoming session.

Incoming Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, made the decision to assign Bouchard to the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. Driskill did not respond to inquiries about his committee assignments or expectations for behavior in the upcoming general session, which begins Jan. 10.

The complaint against Bouchard was filed in part due to his previous behavior on the Senate Labor Committee.

Wyoming Hospital Association President Eric Boley filed a complaint under Joint Rule 22 with Dockstader days before the end of the session, after an alleged incident involving Bouchard and Sen. Tom James, R-Rock Springs.

Boley said in his letter that they “entered my personal space and confronted me in an abusive and demanding tone, and tried to intimidate me with their body language.”

Boley said it was because he didn’t provide them with an amendment that was being worked on in the Senate Labor Committee and had moved to the committee of the whole in the Senate.

The lobbyist didn’t cite just one incident.

He said he felt the Senate Labor Committee had become a “negative, uncomfortable and extremely unproductive” environment, and that Bouchard often used intimidation and bullying tactics.

“Senator Anthony Bouchard’s behavior this year has consistently been combative and disrespectful to witnesses, committee members and the chairman,” he wrote. “He has been consistently disruptive to the work of the committee, and has had a chilling effect on people wishing to offer public testimony. All of these behaviors amount to disorderly conduct during the meetings and is a violation of Senate Rule 22-1.”

Although Bouchard said he would not comment on the complaint, committee assignment or the letter sent out by Dockstader, he did make a statement on social media Tuesday regarding the incident with Boley.

“A discussion in the Senate lobby where a Lobbyist is put in his place by an elected Senator – is NOT Violence! This photo shows what VIOLENCE really looks like!” Bouchard wrote on Facebook, including a photo of an individual holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign in front of a fire. “This shows you just how far off the mark we are. A lobbyist says I got into his personal space, says I became violent. And that’s all it takes.”

He said when there’s a written complaint, the process is specifically defined in Rule 22.

“Discovery, open hearing, ability to face accuser, defense-right to counsel, proof of evidence – was all tossed out, in favor of a political hit job,” Bouchard wrote. “A Republican Majority Senate, the upper chamber in WY takes priority of shutting down Bouchard, instead of fixing policy where the next go around whenever that is, grandma must again, DIE ALONE.”

Bouchard did lay out the specific procedure in Joint Rule 22 in his online comment, but this is only if the subcommittee moves forward with a formal investigation.

Ethics complaints are received in writing and signed concerning misconduct involving legislative duties as defined as violations such as violence or disorderly conduct during meetings, sessions or other duties.

An initial investigation is taken up and the presiding officer, in consultation with majority and minority floor leaders, may dismiss the complaint. They can also forward it to a subcommittee of Management Council to confidentially determine whether a formal investigation should occur, which allows for the member complained against to submit a written answer to the subcommittee.

Dockstader’s letter said Bouchard answered the complaint on March 25, and other evidence was submitted that determined probable cause.

The subcommittee didn’t decide to create a special committee to formally investigate the complaint, which would have been a public process.

After the decision to not hold a formal investigation and impose no new punishment, Bouchard is free to serve on his committee and as a member of the Senate.

However, there is a call for civility moving forward from leadership, and it isn’t pointed only at the Cheyenne lawmaker.

Incoming Senate President Driskill and Speaker of the House Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, have asked for respectful engagement and discourse.

Driskill took his own approach and asked committee members to sign prewritten letters of resignation as a pledge to respect each other and the legislative body.

In the other chamber, Sommers said he wouldn’t require lawmakers to sign any kind of pledge, but he believes civility and decorum in institutions are more important than the individuals involved.

“My expectation is that we’ll have a good session. We’ll have a lot of really good debates, like we do every session,” Sommers told the WTE. “I will work very hard at my new position, as I’ve worked hard at every position I’ve had in the past. And I will try to maintain an open door policy for people to talk to me.”

Boley said the Legislature deals with important issues that have a lot of tentacles and big ripple effects, and it is OK to disagree. But he believes that having open and honest conversations, and respecting other perspectives, is important in every realm of life.

“It helps us when we’re talking about passing legislation that’s going to be in statute and impacts so many people,” Boley said in an interview Wednesday. “I just think it’s really important that all sides are listened to and opinions are respected.”

In regard to the Bouchard complaint, he said he respects the decision that the Management Council made and the way Senator Dockstader and other legislative leaders handled it.

“I don’t have any concerns. I’m appreciative of what leadership is doing in both chambers,” Boley said. “Just ready to get back to work and start dealing with some really important health care issues.”

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