Skip to Content

“Teton County leadership is infected by corrupt officials,” says resident – Lawsuit says Teton County commissioners conspired to oust former fire chief

JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming (KIFI) - Tim Rieser of Jackson Hole, Wyoming believes two Teton County commissioners broke the law during the controversial ousting of former Fire and EMS Chief Stephen Jellie.

Rieser is suing to remove Luther Propst and Greg Epstein from the board for alleged "breach of county policies and state statutes, abuse of office, criminal activity, and other actions which, severally and in sum, constitute violations of their official oaths and refusal or neglect to perform their required duties."

Rieser writes that he does not make the accusations lightly, as he has been friends with Propst "for over a decade, and there has never been a falling-out at any time."

In his 79-page lawsuit, Rieser outlines that Propst and Epstein, with the help of the County Attorney, "acted in a planned and coordinated way" to harm Stephen Jellie's reputation and fire the former chief.

“Teton County leadership is infected by corrupt officials,” said Rieser. "It was November 6 that they began the campaign. They had already concluded that Stephen Jellie had to go..."

Stephen Jellie became fire chief for Jackson’s Fire Department in late 2022.

Rieser told Local News 8 the department "was an organization that had inherent historical problems..." and "He [Jellie] comes into a bad, broken budget, a fire department and EMS that has structural communications issues, hierarchy issues, cultural issues."

The issues Rieser described were outlined in a 72-page report by Gannon Emergency Solutions, which was financed by Jackson Hole Fire/EMS in 2021.

Local News 8 has access to the Gannon report. For more information, click HERE.

Starting in November 2023, volunteers, staff and several community members petitioned the Teton County Board of Commissioners to call for Jellie’s resignation.

The group called Jellie’s leadership a “911 emergency.” They accused Jellie of bringing an "Erosion of trust...degradation of moral and safety concerns including mental health throughout the department.”

Jellie was adamant in his own defense. Before his resignation in January 2024, he spoke with Local News 8. Watch his full interview HERE.

The authority to hire and fire Stephen Jellie fell to County Administrator Alyssa Watkins.

Rieser alleges that the two commissioners sought "to force a 2-3 County Commission [not in their favor] into a 3-2 [or more] win with a carefully calculated weaponization of public outrage."

Their penultimate goal was "to compel Watkins, to fire Chief Jellie," said Rieser.

His complaint cites that Propst and Epstein broke Title 6 of Wyoming law by doing so.

"The only point of these public protests and these ridiculously inaccurate articles....was to pressure one of the other three commissioners to flip their vote to compel Watkins to fire Jellie," said Rieser. "And that is a felony."

"It was an insipid campaign," said Rieser

Rieser accuses Propst and Epstein of encouraging disgruntled members of the FD/EMS to speak out against Jellie in public meetings.

In his complaint, Rieser provides an email from Fire Captain Austin Sessions to volunteer and union members of the department. In the email, Sessions encourages them to attend the meeting on December 15, 2023, where they'll make their complaints to the board against Jellie.

Sessions writes, "I have talked to two commissioners and made the point that I believe it is wrong that they are asking us to stand up and state our complaints in public, instead of following the policy laid out by them."

In his complaint, Rieser accuses Propst and Epstein of blatantly misusing "the commission’s regular meeting and public hearing rules" and Teton County's policy to promote a campaign against Jellie.

“Their oath of office required them to dispatch their duties with “fidelity,” which encompasses every possible iteration of trust, loyalty, ethical purity, faithfulness, morality, devotion to duties and obligations, honesty, and much more,” Rieser writes.

“In their zeal to influence other commissioners to vote their way, Propst and Epstein facilitated the destruction of Stephen Jellie’s employment, reputation, and career, and in so doing, recklessly violated every possible meaning of the word fidelity.”

Rieser also accuses the commissioners of involving the local media in their campaign against Jellie.

He asserts in a 3-week period, the News and Guide wrote thirteen reports on Jellie.

In his complaint, he writes that Keith Gingery channeled information to the Jackson Hole News and Guide, "supportive of a storyline that is deliberately aimed to target Stephen Jellie maliciously."

The complaint says they took "Executive session discussions into public meetings to humiliate and abuse an employee."

On January 2nd, Jackson Town Council Member Jessica Chambers called for both Jellie’s and Alyssa Watkins’ termination.

Two days later, Watkins put Jellie on administrative leave. By the end of the month, he had accepted a $150,000 severance agreement and tenured his resignation.

Jellie said he never had the opportunity to meet with the board to defend himself from the public comments made against him.

He did however praise his current boss, Alyssa Watkins, saying she was nothing but gracious throughout the entire process.

"Propst & Epstein engaged in various behaviors in those 59 days," Rieser writes in his complaint.

"...Holding improperly noticed Executive Sessions, repeatedly; denying the rights of the Employee in ES under WY state statute, repeatedly; holding public sessions on employees without notification or options as required by WY law and BCC manual, repeatedly; taking private Executive Session discussions into Public Meetings to humiliate and abuse an employee, repeatedly, by ambush, no less; misuse of the public forum to further their personal goals."

According to Wyoming state law, a county commissioner can be removed from office if found guilty by a judge for refusing or neglecting without just cause to perform any of his required duties or knowingly commit any act against the office oath and bond.

A judge must hold a bench trial on the charges within 30 days of a complaint being filed.

Rieser writes he "intends to file a follow-on complaint to the Governor’s Office upon the filing of
this complaint to request immediate removal from office for Propst & Epstein under WY
Statute 18-3-903 which requests the Governor impose immediate removal pending the outcome of
the upcoming hearing on this matter."

Article Topic Follows: Wyoming

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content