An Aug. 28 police report filed against Craig Hedquist was only the latest in a string of complaints lodged against the Casper city councilman before and after he took office in January.
In emailed complaints and handwritten reports provided at the request of the Star-Tribune, city employees describe Hedquist as hot-tempered, degrading and having an unchecked conflict of interest.
Hedquist was elected to his council seat in November. He owns Hedquist Construction, a non-building construction contractor that often performs work for the city. City employees — mostly those in the public services department — say Hedquist has repeatedly abused his elected position to bully on behalf of his company. The complaints claim Hedquist attempted on many occasions to disconnect his roles as a contractor and a city councilman.
Five separate instances prompted the documented complaints provided to the Star-Tribune. Most stemmed from meetings that dealt with construction projects Hedquist Construction was handling.
City employees say Hedquist complained about the scope of a street project on Indian Paintbrush, about a rival construction company working near one of his contracted areas, about a change in a street-striping plan and about not being paid on time.
The complaints detail Hedquist’s alleged profanity-laced insults against City Engineer Andrew Beamer and Assistant Public Servicers Director Pete Meyers, among others. On one instance, Hedquist reportedly told Beamer and city employee Scott Baxter “city staff didn’t know what they were doing and we should have the f------ Street Department fix these areas.”
In another instance where Meyers attempted to address Hedquist’s issues, Hedquist reportedly said Meyers “doesn’t know s---,” and that he should “step up if he wants to be a big public works guy.”
In the most recent incident, at a progress meeting about the Zone II/III Waterline Project, Hedquist allegedly challenged Beamer with: “are you going to f------ stand up, b----?” The complaint resulted in a filed, and then dropped, police report.
Hedquist apologized to Beamer in an email written by one of his employees.
“Craig apologizes for the inappropriate language,” the email states. “Although he was ‘speaking as a contractor’, he realizes that it was uncalled for and will refrain from using unsuitable language.”
One specific issue that arose on Aug. 20 involved the city charging Hedquist Construction for liquidated damages for not meeting a project’s deadline.
“Craig said that the city of Casper has traditionally enforced deadlines in a certain (lenient) way, without charging LD’s as soon as they could be incurred,” the complaint reads. “He said that since we hadn’t charged them in the past, we can’t be charging them now.”
Public Services Director Rick Harrah summed up these and other incidents in an Aug. 29 letter to City Manager John Patterson.
“Any reasonable person would fire such a contractor immediately,” Harrah wrote. “Yet all of this is overshadowed by the fact that Craig Hedquist is a city councilman.”
The City Council oversees city employees, but city employees oversee contractors. Harrah wrote to Patterson that he knew Hedquist had repeatedly been counseled on how to serve in both of his positions in a professional manner.
“This circular system of authority might have been manageable if he had chosen to be careful to not abuse his authority as a council member,” Harrah wrote in the letter. “Instead, he has done exactly the opposite.”
Harrah requested that Hedquist be instructed that he may no longer speak with any staff member of the Public Services Department.
Hedquist declined to comment on this story when approached at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Hedquist’s attorney, Michael Lansing, said his client was acting on behalf of the construction company he owns in regard to all of the matters that have come forth.
“There’s two sides of the story,” Lansing said. “There’s specific knowledge that the city staff has overstepped their contractual obligations or roles.”
Lansing said there were breaches of contract with Hedquist construction that have created tension with the city and the company.
“Craig Hedquist has done the majority of city projects for years, and is not treating city staff or third-party engineers any different than he did before he was a councilman,” he said. Lansing added that he wasn't familiar with the internal emails and thus couldn't comment specifically on their content.
Patterson said there is an ongoing investigation about the issues involving Hedquist, but declined to discuss details. He said the topic was discussed in executive session Tuesday night and the council will consider further action next week.