Case filed against county commissioner

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

Commissioner Tony Barton was served with a summons on Tuesday, Nov. 2, at the Weston County Courthouse after Garrett Borton filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment, Application for Temporary and Permanent Injunctions, against Barton. 

According to Borton, this case has been in the works for some time. 

Barton’s residency, the object of the petition, first became a topic of discussion in October of 2020 when the Concerned Citizens of the Weston County Sheriff’s Office questioned Barton’s relocation to Crook County.  Barton relocated last year, two years prior to his term being up in 2022. 

Barton still owns a business, Sustainable Homes & Design,  in Upton but his home address is listed as Carlile, Wyoming on the summons documents. 

As previously reported by the News Letter Journal, both the citizens group and the Weston County Republican Party presented the first of two citizen grand jury findings on April 20, during a commissioners meeting, signed by over 270 residents, stating that Barton no longer lived in the county. The findings said that because he was not a resident, he should no longer be eligible to serve as a county commissioner.  The findings noted that a commissioner must be an eligible voter residing in Weston County and that Barton was, therefore, no longer eligible to vote. 

At the meeting, three of the five commissioners voted to support Barton’s plan to remain on the commission until his term expires in 2022. Don Taylor stood in opposition to his fellow board members. Barton did not vote. 

“There is no legal reason I can’t serve until the end of my term …,” Barton said at the time. “My decision does not rest on the grand jury, the commissioners or the Republican Party. It is my decision to make, and I remain committed to finishing my term. … I remain committed to putting Weston County first and improving our community.” 

Former County Attorney Alex Berger, a Campbell County resident, said that there was no legal standing to remove the commissioner from his elected seat. 

But documents filed on Oct. 26 in the Sixth Judicial District Court for Weston County show that Borton and others believe they have an avenue to address the issue. 

“Plaintiffs (Borton) seek injunctive and declaratory relief within the jurisdiction of this court concerning Defendant’s (Barton) qualification to function in the office that he is currently holding in Weston County,” court documents state, noting that per Wyoming Statute 18-3-501(a), the board of county commissioners “shall consist of … qualified electors.” 

The petition does not ask for Barton’s removal or resignation. 

However, the petition requests a  temporary injunction, which per statute would be “a command to refrain from a particular act.” In Barton’s case, this would be that Barton refrain from voting as an elected official and that he no longer receive financial compensation from the county. 

The petition also asks for a permanent injunction  in which the court grants the requested relief. 

According to the summons, Barton has 20 days from the Nov. 2 service of the summons to provide an answer to the petition. 

“If you fail to do so, judgment by default will be taken against you for the relief demanded to the Petition for Declaratory Judgment, Application for Temporary or Permanent Injunctions,” the summons says. 

Borton told the News Letter Journal that regardless of the outcome, he believes the filing of this case is a positive thing and shows elected officials that the people will hold them accountable. He noted that this is a personal matter with Barton alone and has nothing to do with the board of commissioners as a whole. 

Barton did not respond to requests for comment by press time. 

This isn’t the first time that the residency of an elected official has been an issue in the county. The most recent case sparked the resignation of former Newcastle Mayor Deb Piana. Newcastle City Councilman Michael Alexander tendered his resignation on Nov. 1, after moving outside of the city limits. 

Former County Attorney Alex Berger also fought his way through court in 2018 to appear on the Weston County ballot while residing in Campbell County.

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