Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday afternoon halting the process to select a replacement sheriff until late November.

State Committeeman Ken Chestek, representing the Albany County Democrats, told the Boomerang that arguments on the merits of the party’s lawsuit against the Albany County Commission are scheduled for next month.

“We’re basically on hold until the end of November,” he said.

The dispute between the Albany County Democrats and the Albany County Commission began after Sheriff Dave O’Malley, a Democrat, notified the commission that he planned to retire Jan. 2. His current terms runs through 2022.

On Sept. 15, the commission acknowledged receipt of a notice of retirement. The following day, the commission notified the county party of the vacancy, initiating a 15-day period for the party to name three replacement candidates, with a deadline of Oct. 1. The commission must select a replacement sheriff within five days of receiving the three names.

Chestek said that because O’Malley plans to remain in his position until Jan. 2, the position isn’t actually vacant and thus the process is improper. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Megan Hayes Sept. 28 on behalf of the party’s central committee, seeks a declaration that no vacancy exists until O’Malley’s retirement takes effect, and thus the 15-day process should begin Jan. 3. Hayes argues that Commission chair Terri Jones isn’t authorized to initiate the replacement process and the commission is acting outside its authority.

Moreover, Chestek said, the 15-day process doesn’t allow enough time to conduct a thorough search and properly vet a candidate for the position.

Jones said in an earlier interview that the commission has precedent on its side and the current process abides by Wyoming State Statute.

Kricken granted a temporary restraining order on Sept. 29 until the hearing could take place Wednesday.

Chestek said the party’s central committee planned to meet Thursday evening to decide a course of action in light of the new development.

“That gives us some additional time to continue the process,” he said.

Chestek said the party plans to use the time it does have — if not until January than at least until next month — to continue the work of finding suitable replacement candidates.

“One idea that we have that’s going to be put to a vote tonight is we restart with a more patient and more thorough process, where we can learn more about the candidates before we can recommend anybody,” he said.

Meanwhile, the order prohibits the commission from attempting to fill the office until a further order from the court.

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