High Court: Former GOP leaders voted illegally


Elisabeth “Biffy” Jackson (left) and her father, Lyle Williams, were on the losing side of last week’s Wyoming Supreme Court decision. The court ruled that the two, along with Williams’ wife, Jana Williams, and Karl Allred, voted illegally during a 2021 Uinta County Party leadership election. (COURTESY PHOTOS)

Conrad, other plaintiffs vindicated by reversal

EVANSTON — Some of the infighting within the Uinta County Republican Party may have come to an end after the Wyoming Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision last week, ruling in favor of local plaintiffs who sued the party.

On Thursday, May 18, the Wyoming Supreme Court vindicated the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Uinta County Republican Party; Lyle L. Williams; Elisabeth “Biffy” Jackson; Karl Allred; and Jana Lee Williams.

The earlier decision issued by then Third District Court Judge Joseph B. Bluemel, which was in favor of the defendants, was deemed a reversible error by the Supreme Court.

The party was sued by Rep. Jon Conrad, former legislators Ron Micheli and Clarence Vranish, Clara Vranish and former Bear River Mayor Troy Nolan. Former Rep. Danny Eyre and state Sen. Wendy Schuler were originally suing the party, as well; however, Eyre and Schuler were not named as plaintiffs in the Supreme Court appeal.

Conrad said he’s happy the issue is finally resolved, adding that the process has taken a toll on him and others.

“I was personally exhausted by the whole matter,” he told the Herald. “I’ve been made out to be a villain. I’ve lost friends over this.”

The plaintiffs — all members of the Uinta County Republican Party — sued the party and its leadership at the time for violating state law during its 2021 leadership elections.

Jackson, the former party chair, is the daughter of Lyle and Jana Williams. Allred served as interim secretary of state for a few months last year. After all four lost precinct committee elections in the 2020 primary, they still voted in the party’s leadership election in March 2021. That violates state law, the Supreme Court ruled.

The Sublette County Attorney’s Office had previously said the actions likely violated state law but chose not to prosecute the defendants.

Bluemel had ruled that the county party was a private party and therefore could change its by-laws to allow outgoing officers who were not members of the Central Committee to vote.

The Wyoming Supreme Court stated: “Sections 22-4-105 is entirely clear when the general rules of statutory interpretation and grammar are applied. All county committee officers and state committee persons are elected by the county central committee, alone. The district court erroneously concluded the Uinta County Republican Party acted within its statutory authority by enacting Bylaw SS9 (2) and using it to allow the Williams Group to vote in the 2021 election.”

The statute clearly designated a specific group of people who could vote — the county central committee. That committee is made up of precinct committee persons elected in the preceding year’s primary. (Section 22-4-201 (b)) By specifying the county central committee as who “shall elect” its officers, the legislature chose to restrict the eligible voters in such elections.

The Supreme Court reversed the District Court’s ruling because “the clear and unambiguous language of State Statute 22-4-105 only allowed members of the Uinta County Republican Party Central Committee, made up of duly elected precinct committee persons, to vote in the 2021 election for Central Committee officers and state committee persons. The Uinta County Republican Party was not authorized by the statute to adopt Bylaw SS9(2) which expanded the eligible voters in Central Committee elections and the Party violated State Statute 22-4-105 by allowing the outgoing Central Committee officers to vote in the 2021 election. The issue of whether SS 22-4-105 infringes upon the Uinta County Republican Party’s constitutional right to freedom of association is not properly before this Court.”

The Supreme Court ordered that the costs of the appeal be paid for by the defendants, which gets a little tricky since the plaintiffs now hold leadership positions after ousting the Williams group this March.

Conrad said the defendants in the case added six more people this year to vote in the county leadership election after changing the party’s bylaws to allow more voters, something he and Micheli said would be dangerous for democracy.

“If this wasn’t overturned, any county could add as many people as they want,” Conrad said. “When [Allred] saw all these people running,” referring to more moderate Republicans, “that’s when he changed the bylaws.”

Conrad said he’s happy to see that the local party “has to abide by the law when it comes to electing officers,” adding that he’s comforted and humbled by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

So, what next?

“It is over and finished,” Conrad said.

Conrad and the other plaintiffs are now expected to foot the legal bill for the people they sued, because they are now the party’s leadership. Conrad said he hopes all parties can reach an amicable settlement concerning more than $50,000 in attorney fees that the Williamses, Allred and Jackson accumulated.

Requests for comment from Jackson, Allred and the Williamses were not returned by press time.

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