The Star Valley Independent is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange. These stories come courtesy of the WNE.
State asks judge to throw out public records case
CHEYENNE (WNE) – Attorneys for the Wyoming State Auditor’s Office want a Laramie County judge to throw out a case accusing her of taking too long to release public documents.
American Transparency, an Illinois group that runs the website Openthebooks.com, and the Equality State Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit in July accusing State Auditor Cynthia Cloud of wrongfully denying and delaying requests for the state’s checkbook.
The group first requested the records and was denied in 2015 because Cloud’s office said that compiling state payments for a year would make it impossible to perform essential duties.
This year, Cloud reversed her decision and agreed to release five years worth of transactions at a cost of $8,000.
The initial complaint accused Cloud of stalling, and asked Laramie County District Judge Catherine Rogers to force Cloud to fulfill the request in a timely manner, cover their expenses and pay fines for violating public records law.
Rebecca Zisch, a lawyer in the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, said in a hearing Monday the judge didn’t have standing to make any of those findings. She also said the transparency groups hadn’t asked for the proper course of action.
She said the transparency groups couldn’t seek recourse under the Wyoming Public Records Act because the auditor accepted their request.
And Zisch defended the auditor’s office taking so long to release the records. She said Cloud had already released thousands of pages of documents during 12 transmissions and would continue to do so until the request was filled.
General election voter turnout above average
WORLAND (WNE) – According to reports released by the Office of the Secretary of State, Wyoming Election Division, voting numbers for both the state primary and general elections were up over previous years, with up to 74 percent of registered state voters turning out to the polls.
The state notes a total voting-age population of 442,832 for 2018, with 266,464 registered voters. Of those voters, only 139,809 (52 percent) voted in the primary election.
For the general election, held Nov. 6, registered voters were up to 276,696, with 205,275 voting (74 percent).
Overall registered voters have increased by 35,887 since 2016. 2018 also marks the largest voting population in Wyoming history.
Vanguard sues Park County over property taxes
POWELL (WNE) — An oil and gas company that went through bankruptcy last year is suing Park County, seeking a nearly $880,000 refund of its property taxes.
Attorneys for Vanguard Natural Resources argue that, because Park County officials failed to file a form with a bankruptcy court in Texas, the company shouldn’t have to pay taxes on the oil and gas it produced in 2016.
Vanguard has asked a bankruptcy court judge to order Park County to pay back the money — $879,873.80 — plus interest and additional money to cover the company’s legal costs.
The Houston-based company has filed identical claims against Natrona, Sweetwater, Johnson, Campbell and Carbon counties. All told, Vanguard says the six counties should be required to pay back slightly more than $2.06 million.
However, representatives for Park County and the other five counties say Vanguard is wrong and have asked a bankruptcy court judge to throw out the complaints.
The publicly-traded company operates across multiple states and in several areas of Wyoming, including the northern Big Horn Basin. Vanguard owns a natural gas processing plant, pipelines and oil and gas wells in Elk Basin north of Powell, plus additional wells in the Gooseberry Creek area south of Meeteetse.
Vanguard filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2017 after low oil and gas prices left the company unable to keep up with its roughly $1.8 billion in debt.
Through negotiations with creditors and selling off some of the company’s assets, Vanguard successfully re-organized; it cleared some $820 million worth of debt off its books and emerged from bankruptcy in August 2017.
One dies in rollover
PINEDALE (WNE) — A Pinedale man was found dead following a rollover accident Sunday morning.
The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office received an OnStar collision activation call on Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2:45 a.m. at mile marker 11 on Wyoming Highway 352.
Sublette County Sheriff’s deputies, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Sublette County EMS and Sublette County Unified Fire were dispatched to the scene.
Upon arriving, Sublette County Sheriff’s deputies found a vehicle off the road and down a hill and had appeared to have rolled.
The driver had not been wearing a seatbelt.
The driver, identified as Jared Sare, of Pinedale, was deceased on scene as a result of injuries from the accident.
Wyoming this Weekend, Nov. 22-25
By The Wyoming News Exchange
A variety of Christmas-themed events will be featured during the Thanksgiving weekend as Wyoming kicks off the holiday season.
Sheridan’s annual “Christmas Stroll,” featuring lights, decorations, music and refreshments, will begin Friday and run through Sunday.
Cody’s annual Christmas Stroll will feature ice carving and a lighted Christmas parade, will be held Saturday.
Other events scheduled for the weekend include:
The 28th annual 5K “Turkey Trot” oil Pinedale on Thursday;
A Thanksgiving brunch with Santa at Cheyenne’s Little America on Thursday, and
The Cheyenne Christmas Parade on Saturday.
For more information on these and other events, please visit the Wyoming Tourism Division’s website at TravelWyoming.com.