- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - The Campbell County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to initiate formal state proceedings against Sheriff Bill Pownall following an investigation into whether he tried to cover up his son’s arrest on a drunken driving charge.

Campbell County Attorney Jeani Stone told commissioners Wednesday that the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation probed an allegation that Pownall coerced his deputies into removing the charge against his 23-year-old son, Seth Pownall, in August and charge him instead with being a drunken pedestrian. After receiving the results of the investigation, Stone recently dropped the pedestrian charge and filed a drunken driving charge.

Gov. Matt Mead will review the verified complaint. If Mead finds sufficient evidence of misconduct, he will forward it to the Wyoming attorney general’s office for action. A special prosecutor also could review the situation to see if any criminal charges should be filed, the Gillette News Record reported (https://bit.ly/1zwM9ob ).

Bill Pownall’s office said Wednesday that he was unavailable for comment. He is set to leave office at the end of December when his third term as sheriff expires. He was elected Tuesday to a seat in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

It isn’t clear how the investigation may affect Pownall’s position as a newly elected state representative, if it does at all, Stone said.

County Commission Chairman Mark Christensen said the commission’s action doesn’t mean the commissioners think Bill Pownall committed misconduct.

Commissioner Dan Coolidge said the complaint indicates “breach of trust.”

In a news release, Stone said that in the days that followed Seth Pownall’s DUI arrest, the sheriff acted “contrary to standard protocol” by retrieving the paperwork associated with the case and placing that paperwork in his office.

“That paperwork has been subsequently turned over the (the) Division of Criminal Investigation by Sheriff Pownall,” Stone said in the news release.

“The investigation revealed that Sheriff Pownall instructed staff at the Sheriff’s Department to lock the DUI report in the system so that others could not view it, and change the entry in the system to reflect the Pedestrian Under the Influence charge rather than the DUI charge,” Stone said. The staff did as they were told and the pedestrian under the influence charge was filed, she said.

Stone stated that her office received an anonymous letter in late September stating that the sheriff had required a deputy to change the charges against his son.

In response to the letter, Stone stated, she asked DCI to investigate on Oct. 1. She said her office received the DCI report Monday. The report itself was not released.


Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, https://www.gillettenewsrecord.com

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