A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by former Casper City Councilman Craig Hedquist, who alleged a former police chief violated his privacy in an attempt to sabotage his political career.
Hedquist, who served on the City Council for three years before his 2015 resignation, sued former police chief and current Councilman Chris Walsh in October 2016. In court documents, Hedquist’s lawyers wrote that Walsh had used a police database to produce a report for a former city manager.
In granting summary judgement against Hedquist, Judge Alan Johnson wrote in Monday’s ruling that Hedquist “has not shown ... Chief Walsh should have known that his specific actions were prohibited, if his actions actually even were prohibited.”
Hedquist’s lawyers had argued that Walsh had used a police records system to search for information on Hedquist in an attempt to keep the then-councilman from earning another term on the City Council.
Walsh said in a deposition that he used the records system in 2013 to search for information on Hedquist but that he could not remember why. He said the search may have been related to a traffic ticket.
Defense attorneys argued Walsh had conducted the records search in order to investigate tips from city officials alleging Hedquist lived in Ward 1, not Ward 2, which he represented. If that allegation were true, Hedquist would have been breaking Wyoming law and could have been punished with up to five years of imprisonment upon a conviction.
Because Hedquist owned a number of properties across Casper, Walsh was unable to determine where Hedquist actually lived, Walsh’s lawyers said. The former police chief did not ask for an investigation into Hedquist’s address and the former councilman was never charged with a crime.
In his ruling, Johnson wrote that Walsh and the city are granted immunity by Wyoming law because Hedquist’s attorneys did not present any case law indicating the search was illegal. He further stated Hedquist’s lawyers did not explain why it was outside the scope of legitimate searches.
They likewise did not indicate Walsh should have known he was searching for an improper reason, the judge wrote.
Walsh served as police chief for two and a half years, resigning in 2014 for reasons he has said were unrelated to any scandal. He was elected as a city councilman in 2016 and has represented Ward 3 since January 2017.
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Walsh said he was relieved to have the case resolved.
“I didn’t do anything out of any political motivation toward him,” Walsh said. “The judgement speaks for itself.”
Frank Chapman, one of three attorneys representing Hedquist in the case, declined to comment and referred a Star-Tribune reporter to his co-counsel, John Robinson.
Robinson did not immediately return a Tuesday afternoon phone call seeking comment.
Hedquist also sued the City of Casper and two officials in 2014, claiming city officials used their clout to exclude his construction business from city projects. Johnson, the same federal judge, dismissed the suit in spring 2017. Hedquist has appealed the suit to a higher court.
Attorneys argued the appeal in March. A ruling has yet to be handed down.