Wyoming National Committeeman for the state Democratic Party Jon Gardzelewski of Laramie resigned from his position following allegations of harassment earlier this year, but he denied any wrongdoing Thursday. And while the anonymously submitted news was confirmed by Wyoming Democratic Party chairman Joe Barbuto, the release did not come from the party.
Gardzelewski, an associate lecturer in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wyoming, was forced to resign from his elected position to the Democratic National Committee under threat of being removed. He told the Laramie Boomerang on Thursday the attempts to remove him were being carried out unjustly by adversaries in the party.
“This is vengeance as motivation,” Gardzelewski said.
A letter with no return address postmarked in Cheyenne was received by the Laramie Boomerang on Thursday describing Gardzelewski’s resignation that took place moments before a vote to permanently remove him from his position. It says he was “removed from his public service position after multiple reports of harassment and highly inappropriate behaviors were filed against him from multiple different individuals within the Wyoming Democratic Party.”
“Gardzelewski exhibited these behaviors over the course of his (now shortened) term,” the letter reads. “The Wyoming Democratic Party acted with promptness as soon as reports were made, filing a resolution that was voted on, in majority, to remove Gardzelewski from his position at an executive committee meeting in February of this year.”
A resolution was included with the letter that requested the DNC take necessary steps to remove Gardzelewski as a member of the party and as a national committeeman for Wyoming. The resolution finds that he “admitted to behavior that is reasonably described as threatening.”
Gardzelewski, however, said his statements made during a meeting the resolution refers to were taken out of context and purposefully mischaracterized.
The anonymous letter does not describe any of the alleged incidents of harassment or “highly inappropriate behaviors.”
Specific party members, Gardzelewski said, sought to oust him after he ran candidates against former party leaders. Gardzelewski was a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, during his failed 2016 primary bid. During that election year, Gardzelewski was elected as a Wyoming Democratic Party super delegate. Following the Albany County caucus, Gardzelewski created a group within the Democratic Party called the Progressive Caucus. The group, he said, would advocate for the progressive positions where the movement supporting Sanders — which he said felt disenfranchised following the caucus outcome — and Clinton differed.
The accusations that led to his reluctant resignation, Gardzelewski said, were a result of ousted state party leaders blaming him for their loss in 2017.
“I think its personal,” he said.
In a letter to the DNC, Gardzelewski alleges “blackmail and defamation” were used against him, and that party members “tampered with a civil custody case for visitation rights with (his) son, influencing (him) to settle on a compromised visitation agreement.” But he said the pleas fell on deaf ears.
When asked whether he’d ever engaged in behavior that could be characterized as harassment or highly inappropriate, Gardzelewski said “absolutely not.” In his resignation letter, he made three statements regarding the accusations, asserting that he, conversely, is the victim:
— “I have never displayed violent or aggressive behavior in a professional setting. Never in my life, and never during my professional obligations within the Democratic Party.”
— “I have never harassed members of this party in a professional setting. Any excerpted evidence of harassment will not hold under investigation, given full context. If someone punches you, and you yell at them to stop, is the person who yells “stop” the one harassing the other?”
— “I have been a victim of harassment, of slander, of domestic violence and abuse, and now of an unjust and clearly prejudiced process.”
When asked for comment about the anonymous letter, Barbuto did not address the source, but confirmed Gardzelewski’s removal.
“During the regular summer meeting of the Wyoming Democratic Party State Central Committee held in Buffalo, Aug. 25, Lucas Fralick of Gillette, Wyoming, was elected to be WDP National Committeeman,” Barbuto stated. “Fralick replaces Jon Gardzelewski who resigned earlier that day. The term ends 2020.”