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Party makeup of University of Wyoming trustees violates state rules

Mead says he will address imbalance as positions open

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Nine of the 12 trustees governing the University of Wyoming are registered Republicans, despite a state statute permitting only seven members to belong to the same political party.

That's according to the latest state elections data obtained by the Star-Tribune under public records law.

Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican who appoints the members of the board with the approval of the state Senate, said in a statement he will rectify the imbalance as board members' terms expire.

"With several hundred appointees on record, it is impractical to monitor the detailed status of each appointee," Mead's office wrote in an email statement to the Star-Tribune.

Three Democrats and nine Republicans currently make up the governing board at the state's lone public four-year university.

Wyoming statute mandates trustees be appointed to six-year terms, no two trustees may be residents of the same county and "[n]ot more than seven members of the board shall be registered in the same political party."

Mead's office did not say whether it was aware of the oversight.

"Care is taken to make sure each appointee’s requirements are legally correct at the time of their appointment," his office said in the statement.

Changes can happen during terms, the statement said. An appointee may move out of a required district; a business owner may sell his business; a member may change party affiliation. 

Changes in status do not automatically create a vacancy on a board or commission, but may be grounds for removal if not corrected, the statement said.

Trustee President Dave Palmerlee said he was not aware of the imbalance but knew of the statute limiting the number of trustees who could be politically aligned.

"My personal view is that the governor appoints and the trustees serve," said Palmerlee, who was appointed to the board in 2005. "I have never seen a hint of partisanship in the board discussions."

Dave Bostrom is past president of the board and member since 2007.

"That's an issue I think needs to be addressed with the governor's office," Bostrom said. "I don't think that the board of trustees has any say in the matter whatsoever. That's not something we can monitor."

Warren Lauer, a board member from Laramie and one of the board's three Democrats, said there's a potential for political differences to arise in board discussions on issues like whether UW should permit its students to carry firearms on campus.

But on the whole, party membership has not played a major role in his time on the board, where he has served since 2005.

"I quite frankly haven't paid any attention as to who was of what party affiliation," Lauer said. 

The university has not played any role in monitoring the political affiliation of its board of trustees, UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said. 

Wyoming has 160 boards and commissions, according to Mead's statement.

Reach education reporter Leah Todd at 307-266-0592 or Follow her on Twitter @leahktodd.


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