From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 38 - December 13, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Brito In Election Suit
District Court decision affirmed in Supreme Court’s right-of-review on the case filed Monday
by Janet Montgomery

For one Pinedale man, taking on Town Hall proved positive with the Wyoming Supreme Court agreeing that two candidates in the 2006 Pinedale Municipal Election should not have been on the ballot.

“It’s taken a year half now...,” said Robert Brito, and now he feels “incredibly great.”

“We are glad the issue is resolved,” said Pinedale Mayor Steve Smith in a release from his office. “The matter is settled and we look forward to moving ahead and continuing on with the business of caring for our town.”

The civil action filed on May 30 challenged the May 2, 2006, town election, claiming that two of the candidates, David M. Smith and Erik Ashley, were not qualified electors as they failed to meet the registered voter requirement and should not have been part of the election ballot. With the most votes of any candidate at 183, Dave Smith was elected to the Pinedale Town Council along with Chris House, who is also named as a defendant in the suit along with Ashley and Pinedale Town Clerk Patty Racich.

The plaintiffs, Brito, a candidate in the election, along with fellow Pinedale resident Loretta Deats, filed the civil action asking the May 2 municipal election to be annulled and that David Hohl, the candidate with the third highest number of votes, take the council seat, according to court documents.

Brito said filing the suit made some Pinedale people mad at the time.

“For the sake of all electors throughout the state, we hope in the future that other candidates will be more attentive to the requirements of petitioning for candidacy to a political office,” he said. “The Supreme Court came out and said what I did was right and I did the right thing. They made a decision because they thought it was so important for the state of Wyoming.”

According to the review filed Monday, as to the question of whether Smith was legally eligible to hold municipal office, “we agree with the district court he is not.”

The court wrote that Wyoming statutes explicitly require a person to be a registered voter on the day the petition is filed, and “because his name was not properly on the ballot, the votes he received, and thus his election, must be considered null and void.”

The court also decided that because two council positions were open at the time of the election, the correct remedy was to not void the entire election but to declare elected the qualified candidate, which was what the district court did in March.

On March 8, Ninth Judicial District Court Judge Norman Young ruled from the bench that Smith was not a qualified candidate at the time of the Pinedale municipal election, and then he annulled the election of Smith and declared Dave Hohl the elected official for the Town Council of Pinedale.

The Supreme Court review stated that because Brito successfully challenged the election of Smith, resulting in the annulment of Smith’s election, Wyoming Statutes “mandate an award of costs from ... Smith to ... Brito under these circumstances”

“I did something for the town of Pinedale for the people of Pinedale and that means a lot to me ... I stood up for something I believed in and the Supreme Court agrees with me,” Brito said.

The review also affirmed the District Court’s ruling to award costs to Brito on the matter.

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