Hearing officer Deborah Baumer dismissed Steve Weichman’s claim for wages after deciding that the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
In the “order granting Teton County’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction” filed Friday, Baumer states that, like a court, an administrative agency is required to have subject matter jurisdiction before it can hear a case.
Per Wyoming law, the Department of Workforce Services must take claims for unpaid wages but Baumer said those rules don’t apply to Weichman because he did not quit his job as Teton County prosecutor and was not fired.
“Weichman was an elected official whose term ended pursuant to Wyoming statute and he simply served out his term,” the order states. “He neither quit nor was discharged.”
Weichman filed a claim for wages with the state because he said he worked until Jan. 7 but his payments from Teton County stopped Dec. 31.
Weichman, who served for 29 years in the county attorney’s office, said Teton County owes him $1,643.84.
But Teton County officials say it isn’t their problem.
“For the department to have jurisdiction to hear the claimant’s claim for wages, the claimant must be found to have been an employee and must have either quit or be discharged,” attorney Paul D’Amours wrote in a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
“As an elected official whose term ended, claimant was not an employee of Teton County. Moreover, since he simply served as the county and prosecuting attorney until the end of his term, he can neither be described as having quit or have been discharged.”
Weichman argued that his decision not to seek reelection is the same as quitting.
But Baumer said that argument “is simply not persuasive.”
“The Wyoming Labor and Employment statutes do not contemplate wage disputes of elected state and county officials to be considered by the [Department of Workforce Services] when their terms of office expire, as a matter of law,” Baumer wrote.
Weichman said that Teton County’s argument is “flat wrong” and that because he’s missing a paycheck he is unable to process his retirement.
“It is the employer’s theft of a week of claimant’s employment credit for purposes of retirement calculations that drives claimant onward against the procedural roadblocks erected by employer to prevent litigating this claim on the merits,” Weichman wrote in a motion.
In a memo obtained by the News&Guide under the Wyoming Public Records Act, Teton County Director of Human Resources Julianne Fries states the county paid Weichman everything that Wyoming law requires it to pay.
“The timing of the first payment, by statute, is January of their initial term in office,” Fries wrote. “Thus the last payment of each annual year is December. No payments are permitted by Wyoming law for the month of January of a county official leaving office.”
Fries even claims that it would be illegal for Teton County to pay Weichman more than his yearly $100,000 salary.
Teton County Clerk Sherry Daigle said none of the other outgoing Teton County elected officials was paid past Dec. 31.
County commissioners were at a special meeting Jan. 3 that lasted almost all day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Daigle said.
“They were not paid either,” she said.
Weichman wouldn’t say if he plans to appeal the order but implied that the fight isn’t over.
“Because litigation is one of several possibilities for the next chapter of this seemingly endless journey, the rules pertaining to pretrial publicity discourage open dialogue with the press,” Weichman told the News&Guide on Tuesday. “I assume, without making any promises, that the merits of Teton County’s position — and mine, for that matter, can someday be publicly debated.”