A Wyoming lawmaker who works as a county attorney helped defeat a bill that would have given county commissioners more control over legal advice.

Critics of House Bill 181, which would have allowed county commissioners to hire outside counsel rather than rely solely on the elected county attorney, argued the bill undermined the authority of county attorneys. It would have allowed commissioners to “cherry-pick and find a legal opinion that they’re looking for,” said Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, who works as Teton County deputy attorney.

Current law allows commissions to hire outside attorneys only when the county attorney is absent or refuses to act.

Conflicts between commissions and attorneys sometimes arise, most recently in Johnson County.

Last summer, Johnson County Assessor Cindy Rogers said she didn't think County Attorney Kenneth DeCock had given her sufficient legal advice on a proposed Lake De Smet water lease. She hired a Cheyenne firm to help.

DeCock sent a cease-and-desist order to Rogers, saying if she continued to obtain outside counsel, she could be prosecuted and removed from public office.

Bill sponsor Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, said his bill had nothing to do with the conflict in Johnson County.

On the House floor Feb. 1, Gingery said at the heart of the county attorney tradition is independence.

“The attorney can really say what they’re really thinking. ‘Listen guys, this is a bad idea,’” Gingery said. “You give that opinion knowing they can’t fire you.”

But Madden believed his bill would have smoothed over management of counties, of which commissions are in charge. 

“I look at it as a deal where they’d use it [hire an outside attorney] once every couple years,” he said.

HB 181 is headed for further study in the interim period between legislative sessions, in which committees of lawmakers meet monthly to tackle issues.

Madden withdrew another measure, House Bill 88, after he decided it wouldn’t solve attorney and commission conflicts over the long term.

That bill would have allowed county commissions to choose to appoint county attorneys, who are currently elected in all but the most populous Wyoming counties.

Reach state reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at laura.hancock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

(3) comments

carlover

gee is that our county attorney in natrona? these guys up here have become so lazy they pay this moron who failed the bar 2 times, i can find 7k a month, to do nothing, but look stupid. or give his speech in his opinion? he cant try a single case on his own without the lifters of a secondary lawyer who is or was or is supose to be head of planning? were still not sure their roles it changes so often my wife is more consistant, and shes bi-polar. ya we got some real winners up here if your a failed lawyer go to work for natrona someone will cover your ass. after all, NOTHING LIKE THE GOOOD OLD BAY GANG, KISS THIS THIS AND I DONT MEAN MY ROSY RED LIPS.

ozwald

County Attorney Bill Knight is paying outside help to prosecute Dana Jones . He has hired a special prosecutor as he is not up to doing his job . Knight is an idiot over his head . It took him several try's to pass the Wyoming bar exam . He needs to be investigated , and fired from his position . He can not understand state law, that makes him ready to write his own in natrona county .

carlover

the county is forum shopping, thats why this is in circut court and not district court where it most asuradly belonged. to top it off they are now trying to denie them the right to a jury trial, every crimnal gets a jury, why not these guys? wht are they hidding or trying to surpress as to not let a jury hear all the tesitmoney the jones will be offing as evidence of abuse of powers, personal vandettas and witness testimoney? what kind of kangeroo chit is this?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.