Teton County says Steve Weichman’s claim for wages should be dismissed because he was never an employee of local government.
But Weichman says that’s absurd and believes he should get his day in court.
The new motions were filed after Weichman, former Teton County prosecutor, submitted a claim for wages with the Labor Standards office of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.
Weichman said he worked until Jan. 7 but his payments from Teton County stopped Dec. 31.
If Weichman is right, Teton County officials owe him a little more than $1,600.
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.”
In a reply to Teton County’s motion to dismiss, Weichman explains why he disagrees.
“Claimant did not run for office in 2018, having decided that 29.5 years in Teton County Attorney’s Office was long enough and that it was finally time to quit,” he wrote. “To assert that retirement is not the same thing as quitting is … well, rather unpersuasive.”
Weichman filed the wage claim in February. A hearing was supposed to occur in early May, but it was continued.
“If the county actually possesses a good-faith basis for its assertion that somehow it is proper to deny wages to elected officials in their last week of service, it should be eager to advance to a hearing and argue the merits here, in the relative shelter of a narrowly tailored administrative process that will not concern itself with the retinue of related concerns that attend Teton County’s practice of paying some elected officials for work they did not do and refusing to pay others for work they did do,” he wrote.
Weichman said the county’s claim that it lacks jurisdiction is just an obstruction to his goal, which he said is simple.
“To argue that the department lacks subject matter jurisdiction to consider claimant’s plaintive cry for relief certainly extends the angst, expense and inconvenience associated with this mission and is sufficiently discouraging to claimant to bring into question whether it is worth it to stand up against a government that refuses to admit just how wrong it is,” Weichman wrote. “Claimant asserts that Teton County’s argument is just flat wrong.”
Weichman believes Teton County has both the jurisdiction and the responsibility to hear his case.
Teton County disagrees, saying it doesn’t even have the ability to fire the elected prosecutor.
“Employer’s assertions of a lack of control over the county attorney’s work fail to acknowledge the tremendous control over the affairs of the county attorney’s office exercised by and inherent in the board of county commissioners,” Weichman wrote.
The board decides the prosecutor’s salary, he said, and there’s no negotiating it.
“Likewise, and far more significant, the board must approve the office budget proposed by the county attorney,” Weichman stated.
“In this manner,” he said, “the board can and has in the past exerted control over large and small details on office management such as the location of the office and the purchase of furniture, equipment, and office supplies —right down to the type of toilet paper used in the office,” he said.
At a $100,000 annual salary, Weichman’s disputed paycheck comes to $1,643.84. But he stated it’s about more than that.
“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.
Weichman states on his original claim for wages that he is unable to process his retirement because of the dispute over his last day of work.
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 she has never dealt with such an issue in her 25 years with the county.
Daigle said none of the other outgoing Teton County elected officials was paid past Dec. 31.
County commissioners were at a special meeting on Jan. 3 that lasted almost all day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Daigle said.
"They were not paid either," she said.
Records show that Weichman was also at work that week.
On Jan. 2 he appeared in Teton County District Court and asked the court to revoke Xavier Dyess’ probation in a criminal matter and send him back to prison.
On Jan. 4 his peers threw him a farewell party in the Teton County District Court’s courtroom.
Hearing officer for the wage claim case, attorney Deborah Baumer, is funneling News&Guide questions through employees at the Wyoming Department of Workforce services, which is acting as custodian of the case records.
There was still no new hearing scheduled at last check.
Correction: This article has been changed to reflect county commissioners were at a meeting during the first week of January. -Eds.