NEWS BRIEFS for Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Yellowstone superintendent credited with saving man’s life

JACKSON (WNE) — Mike Pence was singing Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly’s praises in a speech delivered to 100-some colleagues last week when he squeezed in a remark that earned some perplexed looks.

The vice president, visiting Old Faithful on Thursday, noted that Sholly “literally saved the life of a young man” the night before. While the National Park Service crowd clapped, at least one Yellowstone employee said afterward that she had no idea what Pence was talking about.

But it was true. After the Pence’s visit, Yellowstone’s public affairs team tracked down the story.

The evening before Pence’s address, Sholly was dining at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge with park managers and concessionaire staff. When a young male diner next to them began choking and stopped breathing, another Snow Lodge patron gave him the Heimlich maneuver but was unsuccessful.

The man lost consciousness. Then Sholly got involved.

“Cam stepped in and also performed the Heimlich maneuver,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress wrote in an email, “but this time it was effective and the diner regained consciousness.”

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Council approves UW stadium, auditorium alcohol permits

LARAMIE (WNE) — Beer and other malt alcoholic beverages will again be available at War Memorial Stadium and the University of Wyoming Arena-Auditorium for the 2019-2020 seasons, but not all members of the Laramie City Council were excited about the exclusivity of the permits.

Roxie Hensley, owner of Cowboy State Brewing, LLC and Roxie’s Catering, LLC, will once again be providing the alcohol at UW events at the stadium and auditorium after being awarded special malt beverage permits by the City Council during its meeting Tuesday.

Councilman Charles McKinney asked questions concerning the permit’s exclusivity, which makes Hensley’s companies the only ones that can sell beer anywhere in the stadium except the Wildcatter and Beer Garden areas and anywhere except Mickeys in the auditorium.

Bill Sparks, senior associate athletic director for business operations at UW, explained to the Council Hensley’s two companies were chosen based on a Request for Proposal process because of their ability to handle complicated aspects of serving alcohol at such large events.

“We went through RFP process, asked other vendors in this area and town and so forth to bid on that,” Sparks explained. “Roxie’s was awarded the bid, so there is an exclusivity aspect to it as result of that bidding process that we went through.”

The Council approved both measures for the stadium and auditorium with seven votes in approval. McKinney and Councilman Paul Weaver voted no on both measures.

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Consumer advocates reviewing proposed Black Hills rate hikes

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Consumer advocates with the Wyoming Public Service Commission are investigating a Black Hills Energy proposal to consolidate and raise natural gas rates statewide.

The Office of Consumer Advocate, an independent audit division of the PSC, is reviewing a recent Black Hills request to increase rates by an average of 17.3% across multiple service areas by 2020.

Earlier this month, Black Hills Energy asked the commission to consolidate the company’s four Wyoming gas utilities into one new legal entity, Black Hills Wyoming Gas. The company also submitted a rate review application to consolidate the rates, tariffs and regulations of existing gas territories in Wyoming.

Company executives say the rate changes will streamline service to 129,500 Wyoming customers and help Black Hills recover investments more reliably.

But, as proposed, some residential customers would see steep increases in their natural gas bills. In Casper and Gillette, customers could expect increases of 15-30%, and Cheyenne and Cody customers could see increases from 2-15%, according to the consumer advocate office.

Both residential and small commercial Laramie County consumers would see increases of 2-4%.

“We will be reviewing the application and conducting on-site audits to make sure (Black Hills) is only granted rates that are required to fairly compensate the company for the cost of delivering natural gas to its customers,” said OCA Administrator Bryce Freeman.

The OCA will investigate to determine if the rate increases are an accurate reflection of recent investment costs, said Christopher Leger, an attorney at the organization.

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Woman awarded $310,000 in accident that killed three

GILLETTE (WNE) — A jury awarded an Aladdin woman $310,000 in damages for the pain, suffering, emotional distress and loss of quality of life that stemmed from injuries she received in a fatal crash five years ago.

A jury of 13 — eight men and five women — deliberated for almost two and a half hours Monday evening before reaching the verdict.

Anna Mitchell sued Powder River Transportation for damages in a trial that began June 10. She was a passenger on one of the company’s buses that plowed into a line of cars stopped for construction on Highway 59 the morning of May 14, 2014.

Eight cars were involved in the chain-reaction crash that killed three people.

The $310,000 includes $5,000 each for Mitchell’s knee and chest injuries, $200,000 for emotional distress and $100,000 for the injury to her neck.

Mitchell’s attorney, Tom Metier, said he believed $1 million a year was fair compensation.

Both sides made their closing arguments Monday afternoon in District Court in front of the jury and District Judge Thomas W. Rumpke.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Pat Murphy asked the jury to decide whether Mitchell was telling the truth when she was on the witness stand. He pointed out that she seemed “confused” and forgetful when he asked her questions, but that wasn’t the case when her attorney asked her questions.

Metier said pain causes people to be unable to concentrate, and that Mitchell was in a lot of pain throughout the trial.

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Eastern Shoshone Tribe joins opioid lawsuit

RIVERTON (WNE) — The Eastern Shoshone Tribe has filed its own complaint in the multi-district lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors that already has rallied many other counties and cities to the cause nationwide.

The suit, which says "the Tribe has suffered in several different ways including substantial increases in child welfare and social service costs associated with opioid addiction," brings civil action to 24 pharmaceutical and distribution companies, including Walmart Inc, Walgreen Co., and Johnson & Johnson, in the hopes of compensating for the infrastructural losses that accumulate amid opioid (chemical pain reliever) over-marketing and over-prescription.

The complaint states further that the tribe also has "suffered substantial damages in the form of lost casino revenue, lost productivity of tribal members, lost economic activity, lost reputation and goodwill, and the lost opportunity for growth and self-determination."

A tribal press release also cites the Center for Disease Control 2012 report that prescription opioid abuse disproportionately impacts Native American communities, including the Shoshone Tribe. 1 in 10 Native Americans over the age of 12 use prescription pain medicine for nonprescription purposes, compared with 1 in 20 whites and 1 in 30 African Americans.

The tribe is being represented by the law firms of Rosette, LLP and Skikos, Crawford, Skikos & Joseph, LLP who are collaborating as co-counsel to represent the Tribe.

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Suspended sentence for man in Glenrock voyeurism case

DOUGLAS (WNE) — A Glenrock man who faced two counts of felony voyeurism was sentenced after a plea deal agreement was made with the county attorney’s office. 

Phillip Harnden was charged after a female family member reported to the Glenrock Police Department that Harnden had allegedly secretly taken a video of her in the bathroom of her residence without her consent five years prior, according to court document. 

A second voyeurism charge was added after another video surfaced during an investigation by the GPD and Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. 

Harnden received a suspended sentence and will be on supervised probation for two years. 

During the probation Harnden must not have any unsupervised contact with minors under 17 and may not have any contact with his stepdaughters without specific permission from his probation agent and therapist, along with a number of other conditions.

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