- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The sheriff of Sublette County has been removed from office following a civil jury’s unanimous finding that he engaged in misconduct or malfeasance in office.

The jury verdict came down Thursday evening. District Judge Marvin Tyler on Friday signed an order removing Stephen Haskell as sheriff.

The state has alleged that Haskell billed the county for uniforms he purchased before he took office early last year and later misrepresented the timing of the purchases to the county commission, saying he received them after he took office.

Rawlins lawyer H. Michael Bennett represents Haskell. Bennett declined comment on Friday, saying he can’t comment on pending litigation. He declined to say whether Haskell intends to appeal.

The Sublette County Commission on Friday afternoon appointed Undersheriff Mark Farrell to serve as acting sheriff.

The county commission formally declared a vacancy in the sheriff’s office. The Sublette County Republican Party now must nominate three candidates from whom the county commission will select one to fill the sheriff’s job permanently.

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office had pressed the civil removal case against Haskell. Trial in the case started Monday.

David Delicath, lawyer with the AG’s Office, was on the legal team that pressed for Haskell’s removal at trial this week. Delicath said Friday that he appreciated the jury’s service and the work of the court staff.

“I’m pleased with the outcome,” Delicath said of the trial. “Beyond that I don’t know that it’s appropriate for me to say anything.”

The Sublette County Commission had asked Gov. Matt Mead to start removal proceedings against Haskell following allegations he billed the county for uniforms purchases he made before he was sworn into office in January 2015.

David Bush, spokesman for Mead, said Friday that the Sublette County Commissioners had concerns and asked the governor to initiate the removal process.

“Governor Mead honored this request and the attorney general reviewed the case,” Bush said. “The attorney general felt there was enough evidence to move forward and did so. This is the outcome as decided by a jury of citizens in Sublette County.”

Haskell drew criticism soon after he took office when he prohibited deputies from wearing cowboy hats and cowboy boots. He instead instituted a standard uniform including black trousers, a tan shirt and black, lace-up boots.

A separate criminal case against Haskell regarding the uniform purchases is still pending in Sublette County District Court.

Brad Wnuk, an agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, filed a statement in court in support of the criminal charges against Haskell early this year. Wnuk stated that the Sublette County Commission had requested an investigation into Haskell’s billing of more than $11,000 for uniforms.

According to Wnuk’s statement, several county commissioners had questioned why Haskell and some top-ranking officers in the department were already wearing the new uniform when Haskell was sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 5, 2015.

“The commissioners make clear that any items ordered before the swearing in would be Haskell’s personal debt and responsibility,” Wnuk stated, adding that Haskell agreed and acknowledged that any items ordered before that date would be his responsibility.

Wnuk stated that the county agreed in February 2015 to cover the uniform purchases based on Haskell’s representation that they were ordered after he was sworn in. Wnuk stated that he checked with two companies that supplied the uniforms and found that they had been ordered in late 2014, in the months before Haskell took office.

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