Evansville Town Council Names New Mayor, May Hire Investigator
The Evansville Town Council on Monday evening named its new mayor after accepting the resignation of former Mayor Jennifer Sorenson submitted earlier in the day.
The council nominated and approved Chad Edwards to fill the vacant mayoral position, and began the process to filling the seat vacated by Edwards, which will start immediately and conclude in two weeks.
Council also started discussing what steps the town needs to take in the aftermath of Sorenson's resignation and the misdemeanor criminal charges filed against her and an Evansville police officer last week.
They included considering hiring an outside firm to investigate what happened and to review the drug testing policy of town employees.
A resident asked what hiring an outside investigator would accomplish, how much that would cost, and what the outcome might be.
Edwards responded the town wants to make sure its policies are up to date, and that an investigator would look at the whole picture of what happened that led to the criminal charges. He later said the cost may be prohibitive, especially because of the financial crisis that has accompanied the restrictions on business to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Kyle Ridgeway, the town's attorney and a lawyer with the Casper firm of Williams, Porter, Day, & Neville, said he probably would recommend a couple of firms to conduct the investigation.
Sorenson was charged with one count of misuse of office, according to the charging document filed by Assistant District Attorney Mike Blonigen on June 16.
Officer Matthew Ryan McGraw was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit misuse of office, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.
The two misdemeanor drug charges were possession of less than 3 grams of oxycodone (a schedule II controlled substance) and possession of less than 3 grams of Xanax (a schedule IV controlled substance).
If convicted, the misuse of office misdemeanor offenses are punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.
If convicted, the misdemeanor possession of controlled substances offenses are punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of not more than $1,000.
The case started in August when Sorenson's separated husband called the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. He made criminal complaints about her and McGraw after the Natrona County Sheriff's Office found codeine in a safe at their residence. Sorenson was moving out of the residence at the time, according to a DCI agent's affidavit that accompanied the charging documents.
The husband believed McGraw used stimulant drugs because he would be awake for days at a time, and saw she and he exchange Ambien pills, a sedative and schedule IV controlled substance.
Last fall, DCI agents interviewed confidential sources who worked at the Evansville Police Department and learned about McGraw's prescription drug possession; his decline in appearance; how a man would leave prescription pills on his car seat, McGraw would get them and leave money in their place; how he would pass out in a patrol car and in the squad room; how his moods would vary drastically; how he would be sent home by a sergeant for being under the influence; and "really weird, off the wall text messages," according to the affidavit.
One confidential source told DCI agents that "he/she was surprised at the times when McGraw wasn't high at work."
On March 22, Sorenson called for an ambulance because McGraw apparently had a drug overdose, which led to a subsequent search warrant of Sorenson's house.
After he was admitted to the Wyoming Medical Center, a DCI agent obtained a search warrant for McGraw's medical records that indicated his suspected overdose including a urine drug screen that was positive for opiates in his system.
Sorenson, based on an interview and pharmacy records, had obtained a variety of prescription drugs between Oct. 1 and March 23 including Xanax.
A later interview of McGraw revealed that three years earlier that he had obtained 20 to 30 oxycodone pills from the man who left the medicines on his car seat.
McGraw adamantly denied every taking prescription drugs from suspects or accessing the prescription drug drop-box where residents dispose their old medicines.
On March 25, DCI personnel downloaded McGraw's cell phone and found an internet search of "'how far back can a hair follicle test'" and a text message conversation between him and McGraw.
A conversation on June 18, 2019, quoted McGraw telling Sorenson, "Losing is for people who don't know how to win at all costs," to which Sorenson responded, "ya."
On July 11, Sorenson was at her place of work and asked McGraw to use the Spillman Computer Aided Dispatch records management system to look up job applicants.
She asked about one applicant, to which McGraw wrote, "He's on felony probation." Sorenson responded, "Well i don't know how that works. I can't hire felons."
Two weeks later, Sorensen wrote, "I'm just gonna have you start running my applicants."
Spillman is used by law enforcement agencies in Natrona County, but the Casper Police Department owns it.
"Agents found evidence McGraw obtained law enforcement data for personal use and for use by J. Sorenson's in her position at Atlantic Aviation for background checks," according to the DCI affidavit.
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