NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, Jan. 27, 2020

From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Trustees hope to pick new prez next month

LARAMIE (WNE) — The University of Wyoming’s trustees are hoping to have a new president selected by the end of February.

During the trustees’ meeting Friday, search committee chairman John MacPherson said the quality of the candidates who’ve applied for the job has “been a lot better than I originally anticipated.”

MacPherson said the search firm hired by the university, Parker Executive Search, provided the search committee with a list of more than 60 candidates this week.

The bulk of those candidates come from academia; MacPherson said about 10% are current or former presidents, about 20% are deans, about 10% are provosts, about 10% are provosts and about 27% are other administrators.

The search committee plans to meet Tuesday to decide which candidates they’ll interview, MacPherson said.

Those candidates will then be interviewed via video conference on Feb. 4 and 5.

“From that interview process, we’ll submit a list of candidates of the board’s consideration,” said MacPherson, who’s also the former trustees chairman.

Dave True, who currently chairs the board of trustees, said his board plans to conduct interviews with semi-finalists off campus on Feb. 12 and 13.

During Friday’s meeting, Faculty Senate chair Ken Chestek asked the trustees’ permission for he and Staff Senate President James Wheeler to be present during those interviews.

True said he’ll take that request “under advisement.”

After those mid-February interviews, True said the board will select a few finalists and publicize their names — assuming they’re all still interested in the job.


Medical groups band together to back Medicaid expansion

CASPER (WNE) — A group of Wyoming health organizations formally announced this week their plan to lobby the Legislature to expand Medicaid in the Equality State.

“I think we’re hearing from a lot of sectors and a lot of different voices are coming up and speaking out and supporting Medicaid expansion,” said Chris Merrill, whose Equality State Policy Center is part of the coalition.

The group — dubbed Healthy Wyoming — includes the Wyoming Medical Society, the state hospital association, AARP Wyoming, and state chapters of the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Merrill said. Its sole and explicit goal, he added, was expanding Medicaid. Its rollout includes a question-and-answer handout with facts about expansion and a Facebook video quoting several University of Wyoming medical students speaking in favor of the effort.

States have the ability to expand the program under the Affordable Care Act and via a Supreme Court decision. The process would broaden the joint state-federal program to those making 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The new costs of the larger program would be split between the federal government and the state, with the feds paying 90 percent going forward.

Figures released by Wyoming’s Health Department show that Wyoming would pay about $18 million in the first two years of expansion, while the feds would pay $136 million. Roughly 19,000 Wyomingites would be newly covered by expansion in those first years.


Special prosecutor finds no election code violations in Sheridan

SHERIDAN — A special prosecuting attorney has concluded that no charges should emerge from election code violation complaints filed with the Sheridan County Clerk and Recorder’s Office regarding the city of Sheridan’s November special election.

The city’s November special election determined whether Charter Ordinance 2202 — which revised the duties of Sheridan’s city administrator position — would take effect.

Crook County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Baron wrote that no election nor criminal laws were violated based on the first complaint.

The complaint, which came from Sheridan resident Edward Miller, stemmed from an altercation between Miller and Sheridan City Council President Richard Bridger and Sheridan City Councilor Patrick Henderson at The Hub on Smith Oct. 30, 2019.

On that date, Miller confronted Bridger and Henderson, who were discussing the special election with city residents eating lunch at The Hub. Miller told the councilors they were violating election laws by discussing their opinions on the election, which led to an argument.

Regarding election and open meeting laws, Baron said Bridger and Henderson did nothing wrong. He wrote that elected officials are well within their rights to publicly explain their stance on political issues.

The second complaint Baron considered came from Banner resident Vicki Taylor. Taylor’s complaint questioned whether the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce should have taken a stance on the special election considering the organization receives Optional One-Cent Sales Tax funding from the city of Sheridan.

Baron wrote that there was no evidence that the Chamber used public funds improperly and noted that nothing prevents an entity that receives government funds from electioneering. As such, he concluded the Chamber had not violated any criminal laws.


Campbell County Health awaits payment for ransomware attack

GILLETTE (WNE) — Campbell County Health’s operations may be back to normal after a September ransomware attack crippled the organization, but it is still working to recover from its financial losses.

“There’s no impact on operations at this point,” CCH Chief Financial Officer Mary Lou Tate said about the effects of the attack.

The assault knocked out more than 1,500 computers and servers throughout the organization, which included Campbell County Memorial Hospital and the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center.

CCH still has not received settlement money from its insurance companies, which is expected to be around $1.5 million, the amount lost due to the attack, Tate said.

“So any numbers that you may look at year-to-date is going to be impacted because we had a few weeks where we had less volume and less revenues,” she said. “When we get the insurance settlement revenues (they) will be accounted for, but the volumes will never come back for the year.”

The insurance companies requested information on the hospital’s finances for three months before and after the attack, Tate said. CCH has given them a “massive amount of data,” but it could be another month or two before the hospital learns more about the settlement.

The hospital also is still examining how much it cost in overtime hours and extra personnel that were used to address the attack.

“I don’t have a quantification of that right now,” she said.