Some members of the Wyoming Republican Party expect to file a lawsuit against the state central committee after the party adopted a number of bylaw changes at its convention that critics argue are designed to consolidate power at the state level.
The changes, which were approved at the weekend gathering without debate, include a number of reforms meant to suppress dissent — a move that appears designed to quell the opposition to party leadership that some county parties have exhibited in the past year.
Changes include withholding financial resources from Republican candidates who do not vote in line with at least 80 percent of the party’s platform and rules forcing county committees to pay their dues. Some county parties, including Natrona County’s, refused to share fundraising with the state party last year.
Another change grants the state party the authority to punish any state or county official who violates those bylaws.
The changes will also subject members of the state party’s executive committee to a nondisclosure agreement and would give the state party additional oversight over policy changes at the county level.
Those objecting to the changes say the process used to adopt them was designed to silence critics within the party and force changes that dissenting groups within the party — including the Frontier Republicans — have attempted to defeat over the past year.
Attendees adopted a series of rules to speed up the agenda and enact the policy changes before the convention’s hard 4 p.m. Saturday deadline. After some members of the party attempted to pull some of the bylaw changes from the consent agenda to be voted on individually and slow down the vote, the full committee voted to approve all of the bylaw changes without debate, effectively ending the convention.
A number of delegates from Teton, Campbell, Laramie, Albany and Natrona counties were seen exiting the convention floor in protest following the vote.
In comments on the convention floor regarding one of the bylaw changes, Laramie County delegate Caitlin Long suggested that a lawsuit will likely be filed in the coming weeks regarding the process.
“I’ve just found out that there is a lawsuit that is going to be filed,” she said on the floor. “And I’m putting it on the record as evidence from this.”
Long did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend. Natrona County Republican Party Chairman Joe McGinley said Sunday a second lawsuit could potentially emerge as well and will likely address potential bylaw violations that occurred during the convention.
The convention — an only-in-person affair held at the Cam-Plex in Gillette — featured 347 delegates, down from the 463 who were eligible to vote at a convention held remotely last month because of the coronavirus.
Under the rules adopted at the convention, nobody was allowed to vote remotely and had to instead appoint an alternate to attend and vote in their place.
The party had a variance from the Wyoming Department of Health, according to a spokesperson in the governor’s office, as well as a health plan approved by the Campbell County Health Department. There were hard limits of four people per table, and attendees were recommended to wear masks, according to a copy of the health plan obtained by the Star-Tribune.
A socially distanced “breakout room” was available, but only two delegates used them, Chairman Frank Eathorne told conventiongoers.
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