February 16, 2022 |
State lawmaker Dan Zwonitzer will not face an investigation into where he lives, at least in the Wyoming House of Representatives.
A majority of House members Tuesday rejected a motion to convene a special committee to investigate allegations that Zwonitzer lives outside HD 43, the Cheyenne district from which he was elected.
Yesterday’s vote means Zonitzer is cleared to serve the district. House Speaker Eric Barlow told lawmakers in a letter sent Friday that allegations about Zwonitzer’s residency form a nexus of concern given the lawmaker’s role as co-chair of the Corporations Committee, which oversaw the redistricting process. Questions of gerrymandering HD 43 to benefit himself were rolled into the cloud that has hung over Zwonitzer.
The controversy was first raised by the central committee of the Wyoming Republican Party in January. Reams of paperwork, including property records, real estate transactions and voting records were forwarded to the Secretary of State requesting an investigation. Secretary Ed Buchannan declined, saying the matter belonged with the legislature. House Speaker Eric Barlow provided a status update yesterday afternoon.
Pictured above: Representative Dan Zwonitzer. Photo courtesy Wyoming Legislature.
The Residency Complaint Materials are available at the LSO website. Among them is the Speaker’s letter to the House, in which he identifies four separate allegations, including whether Zwonitzer used his position as co-chair of the Corporations Committee to gerrymander districts in Laramie County to benefit himself. Barlow said if that was determined to be the case, the legislature could remedy any concerns during the legislative process. The question never came up Tuesday.
Gillette Rep. Tim Hallinan brought the motion to form a committee of five members to investigate the charges. Hallinan’s motion included provisions for how the four-day investigation would operate. All meetings would be held in executive session and Zwonitzer would be allowed legal counsel. Hallinan said the process would preserve the integrity of the House.
During debate on the motion, Rep. Zwonitzer rose in his own defense. Zwonitzer began by saying he regretted the issue was taking time away from more critical issues the House needs to address during the session.
Representative Zwonitzer’s written response to the charges is included in the materials posted to the LSO’s web site. In it, he acknowledges that family obligations required him to “spend significant time staying east of town outside the House District 43 boundary.” He added that he is within the law to maintain multiple properties and divide his time among them. Lawmakers were given a lease for an apartment within his district.
Albany County Representative Bob Nicholas, who is an attorney, said the apartment lease was enough to satisfy the residency question.
Representative Mike Yin of Teton County, a member of the Corporations Committee, suggested the investigation was a political witch hunt. Yin asked what other evidence it hoped to find. For instance, did lawmaker want to know how much time Zwonitzer spent at each residents Rep. Mark Jennings of Sheridan County provided an answer.
Debate lasted about 20 minutes before a roll call vote was taken. The final count was 24 aye and 36 no. Carbon County representatives Don Burkhart and Jerry Paxton both voted against the investigation. After the vote, and with no other motions made regarding the allegations brought forward, Barlow gaveled the matter closed.
Representative Zwonitzer released a statement following the vote saying he was grateful that the House had affirmed his legitimacy to serve as a representative for House District 43.
Carbon County Republican Party Chairman Joey Correnti, who first raised the question about Zwonitzer’s residency at the central committee meeting in January, said the matter is not finished. Correnti told Bigfoot 99 that questions about voter fraud should be addressed by the Laramie County Clerk and Laramie County Attorney. In the House Speaker’s letter to House members last week, Barlow acknowledged that questions about Zwonitzer’s voting in a special election last year are a matter for civil authorities, but not one the legislature can address.
Related: HD 47 remains intact, for the moment