Cheyenne’s mayor has apparently decided to take a page out of the current national political playbook.
Rather than addressing concerns behind the scenes, Marian Orr is publicly calling out other elected officials when she doesn’t get her way and encouraging her staff to do the same.
Not only is this approach unseemly, it may damage her ability to work with other leaders for the good of the city. It also could negatively impact Cheyenne’s ability to attract new businesses and other private investment.
The most high-profile example came last Monday when she called out Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon for his behavior at a meeting the previous Friday. According to Mrs. Orr, the two leaders were discussing whether to host the president of Taiwan during Cheyenne Frontier Days.
In a news release sent out from her office Monday morning, Mrs. Orr said Mr. Gordon – in front of three of his staff members – engaged in “misogynistic” and “threatening and intimidating behavior.”
“It’s one thing to have a disagreement on an issue,” Mrs. Orr said in the release. “But to lose your temper in front of your own staff, slam your fists on the table, get in someone’s face, and yell ‘f--- you’ because you don’t like the way the discussion is going is abominable.”
The governor later admitted to using inappropriate language during the conversation, but denied standing up in a threatening manner (the two staffers we were able to talk to agreed). He also said his record of respecting women was well known.
Our first question when we saw the release hit our email inboxes was “Why?” What caused the mayor of the Capital City to call out the state’s governor in such a public way about a private conversation?
In the release, Mayor Orr said she “decided over the weekend to discuss the outburst because if the behavior wasn’t publicly condemned, it would continue.” She went on to cite two recent events in Wyoming involving State Auditor Kristi Racines and former state GOP Director Kristi Wallin in which “males used similar intimidating tactics against female counterparts.”
“We must stand up against this and publicly condemn it,” Mrs. Orr said in the release. “We can’t just hope it goes away, because it doesn’t.”
We understand the urge to call out inappropriate behavior publicly so it doesn’t happen again. And we’re all in favor to standing up to bullies and shining the spotlight on them, when needed.
But did this situation really rise to that level? Maybe so. We weren’t in the room, so we don’t know what transpired and how it went down. And we want to be clear: Women should absolutely speak up whenever they encounter a situation where a man abuses their social or economic power. We also, in no way, shape or form, condone the governor’s behavior, even if it was limited to the use of the f-bomb.
But given her history, it seems more like the mayor putting her own bruised ego ahead of the office to which she was elected. After all, she had to know the story would quickly hit the national media. Did she stop to think about the potential negative impact on Cheyenne and the rest of the state of such a public spat?
To make matters worse, the governor said the mayor accepted his apology for his choice of words, but she later told our reporter she rejected that apology after reading his description of the meeting.
On that same Friday, Police Chief Brian Kozak called out Ward 2 Councilman Dicky Shanor on Facebook for “amend(ing) the (fiscal year 2020) budget by freezing future police officer vacancies to fund the Downtown Development Authority.” The chief went on to outline his contingency plan, should the temporary hiring freeze go into effect. That included: fewer officers in local schools; suspending community events and media relations; and suspending all previously scheduled training.
Mr. Kozak ended his post by taking another swipe at the DDA: “I understand the very difficult job most of the Council has in finding ways to fund a non-critical quasi-government agency; The Cheyenne Police Department is ready to help in that endeavor by reducing service where we can.”
Until this situation, we have admired Mr. Kozak’s professionalism. And since the mayor is the one who first proposed cutting the DDA’s funding from $390,000 a year to $100,000, this post feels like something she would write, not him. In fact, in an email to Mr. Shanor, Mrs. Orr admitted she asked each department head to “communicate to the public how services in their department will be affected as a result of your hiring freeze.”
Yet even as Mr. Kozak was doing his boss’ bidding on social media, it appeared the hiring freeze would not be needed. In his response to the Facebook post, Mr. Shanor said discussions after the May 29 Committee of the Whole meeting resulted in “discovery of additional funds adequate to balance this shortfall.” (In fact, as of this writing, the idea of a hiring freeze has been abandoned.) Had Mr. Kozak picked up the phone and called Mr. Shanor to discuss the issue, he would have known that.
The irony in all of this is the news release from the mayor’s office was headlined “Cheyenne Mayor Condemns Governor Gordon for Profane Misogynistic Temper Tantrum.” Yet this mayor has her own history of such outbursts, including storming out of this year’s City Council straw poll dinner and at least one negotiation session with the city’s firefighters union. Our staff has overheard her direct the same vulgar phrase the governor used at a fellow councilman. And she has a history of taking to Twitter to vent her frustration at fellow public servants, ranging from the president of the University of Wyoming to National Weather Service meteorologists.
If Mayor Orr thinks this approach proves she’s strong, she’s mistaken. It makes her look petty, and it needs to stop before even more damage is done.