Legislator drops plans for censure of colleague

CASPER — A Gillette lawmaker no longer plans to seek the censure of Rep. Steve Harshman, who was caught on camera last week cursing a colleague. 

Rep. John Bear told his fellow lawmakers last week that he planned a censure motion for Harshman after the Casper Republican got caught cursing a fellow lawmaker in a hot mic incident during Thursday’s special session proceedings. 

Harshman apologized Friday for cursing Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, in comments that were unintentionally picked up on a Zoom recording. In response, Bear, a Republican from Campbell County, signaled that he would ask his colleagues to censure Harshman sometime this week.

But after “contemplating and thinking it over over the weekend,” Bear decided censure was not the best course of action, he told the Star-Tribune.

“There’s another route we can go that’s a little less public,” Bear said. 

It didn’t appear as though many people caught Harshman’s words when he said them, but since the sessions are recorded, a clip of his remarks began circulating soon after.

“Chuck Gray, f**** [inaudible],” Harshman was caught saying. “Little f****** [inaudible].”

Friday’s special session began with Harshman publicly apologizing to the entire body and Gray specifically. Harshman said he had driven to Cheyenne specifically to apologize. 

“I apologize for that distraction because we have real work to do for our people,” Harshman told his colleagues. “It wasn’t right and it won’t happen again,” he later added. 

Speaker of the House Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, revoked Harshman’s privileges to participate remotely. 

Barlow identified three breaches: Addressing the body without permission from the chair, using a name of another member and inappropriate language.

Bear is still concerned that the consequences Harshman received do not “fit the breach of decorum,” and he is going to take it up with Barlow, Bear said Tuesday. He hopes his colleagues do the same. 

Harshman served as Speaker of the House from 2017 to 2020. He has served with Gray since Gray took office in 2017. 

Speaking to the Star-Tribune later, Harshman wouldn’t confirm what he said on the hot mic, indicating that he didn’t remember. He said he spoke privately with Gray and apologized to him. Gray, Harshman said Friday, accepted the apology.