By DANIEL BENDTSEN
Republican gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes denounced an accusation Saturday that he does not meet residency requirements to be Wyoming’s next top elected official, which preceded confirmation Tuesday state authorities are looking into the matter.
Calling an anonymous accusation a “pack of lies,” the Republican promised voters he’s a Laramie resident and has not had a residence in any state but Wyoming for about 35 years.
“Our counsel is preparing concrete iron-clad documentation for the secretary of state and working with their office, and this matter will be officially wrapped up in short order,” he said in a video posted on Facebook.
Secretary of state spokesman Will Dinneen says in an email the complaint has been forwarded to the state attorney general’s office for review. Dinneen declined to comment on any more questions sent in an email by the Laramie Boomerang.
Haynes vowed Monday to provide the newspaper with more evidence of his residency after it’s reviewed by his lawyer.
While Haynes’ ranch straddles the Colorado-Wyoming border, he listed an office on Laramie’s Third Street as his residence when he filed his candidacy earlier this year.
Another commercial property on Grand Avenue is listed as the mailing address for his Thunderbasin Land, Livestock and Investment land that’s located in Albany County. Until 2016, Haynes had listed an address for Ferguson Road in Laramie County as the address for Thunderbasin.
The complaint filed against Haynes alleges the candidate’s actual residence is over the Colorado state line, not in Wyoming.
An anonymous email — signed by “Anonymous Citizens of the State of Wyoming” — was sent to the Laramie Boomerang on June 25 from a ProtonMail.com address, an encrypted email service. The email said Haynes “has misrepresented his residency in order to meet the qualifications for elected office.”
The Third Street property still sports the sign of Haynes’ business Prodegi Corporate Benefit Services. State records show the property is owned by Brendan Murphy, a Laramie real estate agent. Haynes is listed as the business’s registered agent in filings with the Secretary of State’s office.
“Further investigation” by the anonymous complainant allegedly determined that Hayne’s actual residence is the location of the Thunderbasin ranching business, operating southwest of Laramie in Albany County and Larimer County, Colorado.
The Albany County Assessor noted “$0 Improvements” for parcels in Albany County in 2018, while property taxes paid by Thunderbasin to Larimer County in 2017 totaled more than $7,600.
Little more than $200 was paid in taxes for the Albany County parcels during the same year.
The Albany County property, according to the complainant, doesn’t meet 2017 Wyoming Election Code’s definition of residence as “the place of a person’s actual habitation.”
“By this language, Dr. Haynes is not only ineligible for the office of governor of Wyoming, but he has chosen to misrepresent his place of residence to meet the essential qualifications,” the complainant wrote.
The Boomerang forwarded the email to Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales on June 25. On June 28, Gonzales replied she reviewed the email and conducted “preliminary research.” Gonzales said she’d forwarded the information to the secretary of state for “further investigation.” She also wrote Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent advised Gonzales not to provide “any further information about (her) research” to the Boomerang.
Attempts made by the Boomerang to contact Haynes this week were made difficult by spotty cellphone reception as he traveled to campaign events. Texts sent Tuesday requesting further comment were not returned by press time.
A poll commissioned by Wyoming Public Media and Wyoming PBS and conducted by University of Wyoming pollsters recently found only 10 percent of respondents said they would vote for the self-described constitutionalist candidate Haynes if they were to “vote tomorrow,” according to WyoFile. Haynes, along with Sheridan’s Bill Dahlin and Jackson’s Foster Friess, trailed the GOP gubernatorial primary frontrunners, Sam Galeotos of Cheyenne, Mark Gordon of Buffalo and Harriet Hageman of Cheyenne. The poll found Haynes ranked third in favorability ratings behind Gordon and Galeotos. Thirty-nine percent of voters were found to be undecided on who they’ll vote for.
All six candidates are expected to participate in a Wyoming PBS debate Thursday evening, with Galeotos, Gordon and Hageman debating in the first round and the remaining candidates, including Haynes, in the second.