Rock Springs mayor accused of trying to cut deal with city for his own business
By Joshua Wood and Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
An independent prosecutor with the Johnson County Attorney’s Office charged the mayor of Rock Springs with five misdemeanors last month in Sweetwater County Circuit Court. He faces a fine of up to $20,000.
Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo is accused of trying to use his position to land an engineering contract for his own company.
According to a court affidavit filed Aug. 1, Kaumo faces four charges of official misconduct and one conflict of interest charge. Each charge carries a maximum fine of $5,000.
The charges are the result of a nearly two-year investigation by the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigations and the FBI. The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office in August 2020 requested an outside investigation related to possible illegal activity within the Rock Springs city government, specifically related to a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Bitter Reconstruction Project Creek, according to the affidavit.
The project total had been approved for $3,836,136 in total costs to improve the vacated mining area.
Requests for Proposals are processes by which governments ask contractors to apply for jobs.
In addition to being the mayor of Rock Springs, Kaumo is also the president of JFC Engineers & Surveyors. JFC was one of the companies that submitted a proposal for the project when the city requested project bids from engineers.
From July 17, 2020 to October 6, 2020, according to the affidavit, Kaumo emailed members of the Rock Springs City Council regarding JFC and the RFP.
“Based on the language of the emails, (they) presented themselves as attempting to justify and influence city officials toward voting for Mayor Kaumo’s employers and businesses,” reads the affidavit.
The emails also disparage competing engineering companies, the document says.
Court documents further accuse Kaumo of using his position as mayor to obtain documents that under state law are considered non-public records. These included proposals from competing engineering firms William H. Smith and Associates and Western Engineers.
Other documents included the grant proposal for the Bitter Creek Reconstruction Project, an internal evaluation form and internal score sheets. All were sent by Kaumo to his work email address.
Competing bids were then forwarded to JFC Vice President John Eddins and JFC engineers Randy Hansen and Dan Kennedy, according to the affidavit.
JFC was selected by an internal committee, but those involved raised questions about the cost of the company’s engineering services, which was twice as high as bids from competing engineering firms. The city council ultimately voted against awarding the project to JFC and made another request for proposals according to the affidavit.
After the second RFP, the internal committee selected William H. Smith and Associates. The affidavit alleges that Kaumo continued to disparage competing engineering companies during an October 6, 2020 meeting of the Rock Springs City Council. Following these comments, Kaumo did not abstain from voting and voted against offering the contract to William H. Smith and Associates.
“(He) ran for both mayor of Rock Springs and president of JFC Engineering in an attempt to influence city council votes for professional engineering services for his company JFC,” claims the affidavit.
Other charges relate to derogatory comments Kaumo allegedly made during the meeting.
Kaumo’s arraignment will take place at 9 a.m. on August 31.
Calls to the mayor’s office were not returned.