Hogadon Tour

Interim City Manager Liz Becher, left, tours the bar area of the new Hogadon Basin Lodge along with the City Council on on Tuesday on Casper Mountain. The City Council largely backed her decision to remove Jim Wetzel as police chief.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

At their first public meeting since Casper police Chief Jim Wetzel was dismissed last week, City Council members largely backed the move by Interim City Manager Liz Becher.

Becher terminated Wetzel’s contract in her third week on the job, having taken over after V.H. McDonald retired suddenly following the release of a survey claiming to show low morale at the police department.

“It’s been a pretty simple week for me. It has not been a simple week for you,” Councilman Chris Walsh told Becher at the work session Tuesday. “I appreciate the leadership you’ve shown.”

“I’ll echo that,” said Councilman Charlie Powell.

Walsh preceded Wetzel as police chief.

During her first week on the job, Walsh had requested that Becher ask the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation to examine alleged leadership issues within the police department. Becher said she could not act at the request of a single council member.

But if Walsh’s support for tough action on the police issue was expected, Powell’s comment was more notable. Powell had stated multiple times, and as recently as last Tuesday, that the decision on whether to dismiss Wetzel should not be made by an interim manager. Becher has said she does not want to be considered for the permanent position.

Councilwoman Amanda Huckabay’s support for Wetzel’s firing was less surprising given that she had previously called for him to resign. But she emphasized the work that Becher had put into the decision, seeming to draw a line between the political debate over the police department and the interim manager’s personnel decision.

“Thank you for doing your due diligence and really spending some time to get to the bottom of that and doing the tough work,” Huckabay said. “I think we all appreciate it.”

While Mayor Kenyne Humphrey did not address Becher’s decision during the meeting she affirmed her support in a text message Wednesday.

“I do support her decision and all the work she did to get to a decision,” Humphrey wrote.

Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco, who has called for restraint on the police issue, did not talk about Wetzel’s firing. Pacheco did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Bob Hopkins, a vocal critic of his fellow council members’ decision to weigh in on Wetzel’s leadership of the department, was on vacation in Europe and did not attend the meeting. Hopkins maintains the city manager is solely responsible for overseeing personnel issues.

Councilman Shawn Johnson said last week that he didn’t believe Council’s outspokenness on the issue influenced Becher.

“She did her own inquiry into all of this and that’s the decision she came to,” Johnson said. “She never gave any reason, just said she wasn’t going to renew his contract, and we trust her decision.”

Becher informed Council that she would be terminating Wetzel’s contact last Thursday, one day before the public announcement.

Council met in a closed session following the public meeting Tuesday evening to discuss personnel matters.

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State Politics Reporter

Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics including the Legislature and Wyoming’s D.C. delegation, focusing especially on the major issues facing the Cowboy State like economic diversification and what it means to be the most conservative state in the nation.

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