News Briefs for Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019

Former Basin clerk pleads ‘no contest’ to embezzlement

GREYBULL (WNE) — A former Basin town clerk/treasurer charged with embezzling funds from the town and Basin Area Chamber of Commerce changed her plea on Tuesday, Aug. 6 as a result of a plea agreement.

Danielle Lampman, formerly Chapman, entered an Alford plea to one felony count of theft of $1,000 or more and one misdemeanor count of misconduct as a public official. An Alford plea is a plea in which the defendant maintains their innocence, but admits that the prosecution’s evidence would likely result in a guilty verdict if brought to trial.

Travis Smith, Lampman’s attorney, laid out the terms of the agreement before the court. Lampman would be sentenced to four to six years in the Wyoming Women's Center; however, counsel is arguing time for a split sentence. Her time would be suspended in favor of eight years of supervised probation.

Lampman would pay a $3,000 fine for the misdemeanor and $2,000 for the felony. She would be required to pay $98,410.78 in restitution.

Deputy Big Horn County Attorney Kim Mickelson gave a factual basis for the court. In regards to theft, Mickelson noted that if the matter would have gone to trial, they would have proved that Lampman committed an unauthorized transfer of $20,410 from the Basin Area Chamber of Commerce. An affidavit of probable cause listed that $78,000 originated from the Town of Basin's accounts. In regards to the misconduct charge, Mickelson noted that if the matter had gone to trial, they would have proved that Lampman tried to obtain pecuniary benefits when she did not have the authority from the Town of Basin.


Strata wins approval for uranium mining technique change

SUNDANCE (WNE) — Strata Energy has been granted permission to use low pH mining solution at its in-situ uranium mine near Oshoto, a move that the company hopes will vastly improve recovery rates. Strata announced last week that the Department of Environmental Quality has approved an amendment to its Source Materials License.

DEQ approved an amendment to the company’s permit to mine in March. The two amendments together permit a change from the alkaline and oxidant solutions Strata was previously using, but which was meeting with limited success on the ore body at the Ross Uranium Mine.

A series of bench-scale tests performed in late 2017 showed that significantly more uranium could be recovered using low concentrations of sulfuric acid. Strata was given permission to perform a small-scale field trial as part of the DEQ’s consideration of the amendment request; preliminary data showed positive results.

According to a press release, the company will implement low pH operations in four progressive phases, the first of which is the field demonstration that commenced in December, 2018.

“With this approval, we are optimistic that we’ll be able to commence commercial-scale low-pH operations during the 2019 calendar year,” says Ralph Knode, CEO.

“We look forward to continuing to be a positive economic force for the state of Wyoming and the people of Crook County.”


Laramie approves softball, enough schools now to start play

LARAMIE (WNE) — A vote by Albany County School District No. 1’s school board has set the stage for Wyoming to start offering high school softball in 2021.

Coming into this week, the state still needed once more high school commit to softball to trigger the eight-team minimum for the Wyoming High School Activities Association to start sanctioning the sport.

On Wednesday, the school board voted unanimously to make Laramie High School that eighth school.

The vote followed a half hour of public testimony, as well as a half-year campaign by Laramie Girls Softball to convince the school board to approve the sport. Many of Laramie’s young softball players, their parents, and Laramie Girls Softball organizers attended the Wednesday’s meeting.

Board member Nate Martin praised the girls for their perseverance after the February vote.

“A few months ago, you came to us and asked us to sanction girls softball and the board told you ’no,’” Martin said. “You didn’t give up. You dug in and did the work necessary. … I want you to not take this experience and leave it behind, but I want you to build on it. Coming to public meetings, and putting pressure on public officials in a civil manner is how you’re going to shape the decisions that are going to shape the community and build the world that you want to live in.”

When the school board initially voted on whether to offer softball in February, the proposal died on a 4-4 vote.


Pedestrian killed by car near Casper

RIVERTON (WNE) — Authorities have identified a Fremont County pedestrian who died Friday after being hit by a truck on the highway west of Casper.

Randall R. Vanfleet, 31, of Riverton, died at the scene of the collision, which took place at about 12:40 a.m. Friday near milepost 23 on U.S. Highway 20-26.

Wyoming Highway Patrol officials said the driver of the 2014 Dodge Ram involved — David Bryson, 67, of Casper — was wearing his seatbelt and was not injured in the crash.

The Ram was eastbound at the time, officials said, and Bryson was “unable to avoid colliding with” Vanfleet, who was described as “a pedestrian in the roadway.”

“Drugs and alcohol are being investigated on the part of Vanfleet as a possible contributing factor,” a WHP press release states.

An obituary indicates Vanfleet – whose name is spelled Van Fleet in the death notice – was from Arapahoe.


Legislators eye state employee relocation assistance

CHEYENNE (WNE) —  The Wyoming Legislature will consider allowing state agencies to pay for relocation costs for staff who move up the leadership ladder in a bid to retain high-performing employees.

On a 7-5 vote, the Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee approved sponsorship Tuesday of a bill to let state agencies dip into their own budgets to pay for state employee moving costs. The issue was being pushed by the leadership of the Wyoming Department of Transportation as a way to keep state employees in the fold.

“As leaders in this state, we’re in the business of developing and maturing and growing our workforce,” said Luke Reiner, executive director of WYDOT. “For (employees) to grow, mature and progress in their career, they will likely need to move around the state.”

Reiner said when he took over WYDOT this year, he just assumed he and other department directors could pay state employees’ moving costs tied to a promotion. But not being able to help pay for those moving costs creates a barrier that keeps valuable employees from seeking a promotion.

Currently, state law mandates paying relocating costs when a current employee is transferred between locations as part of an agency decision. It also allows the governor a budget of $20,000 per term to defray moving expenses, capped at $5,000 per appointee.

But the inability to help defray the costs of an employee moving as part of being promoted from within creates a barrier to not only retaining good employees, but keeping the benefits of investing in employee training, Reiner said.


Greybull studies ban on ‘skill games’

GREYBULL (WNE) — The Greybull Town Council may be positioning itself to be on the frontline in the dispute over electronic games of skill and their place in Wyoming.

With litigation pending around the state over the legality of the machines, council members on Monday night directed their administrator-finance director, Paul Thur, and town attorney, Kent Richins, to draft an ordinance that would prohibit them within the town limits. First reading of that ordinance is expected in September.

Between now and then, Richins, who recommended against the action, will conduct additional research into whether any other municipalities in the state have taken such action. It’s believed to be a very short list, if in fact there is one.

Richens and BHC Attorney Marcia Bean, who was not in attendance, are both on record stating their preference that the town do nothing until the matter is resolved at the state level.

Councilman Clay Collingwood voiced the strongest views on the gaming machines, which can presently be found in three Greybull bars.

“My issue is that it’s unregulated gaming,” he said. “It’s everybody’s choice. I’ve seen people doing it -some who shouldn’t be. I don’t like it.

“To me, they are preying on people. They aren’t regulated by any gaming commission. The odds ... I’d guess they are controlled online, which means they can be manipulated. And governments aren’t getting any part of the revenue from them. In fact, we don’t know what’s going on at all. It’s straight up gambling.”