Wyoming news briefs for March 8

House committee advances bill to cut K-12 education

CHEYENNE – The House Education Committee voted 5-4 Friday afternoon to pass a bill that would cut $30 million worth of K-12 funding over the next three years.

House Bill 173 proposes a mix of cost-saving and revenue-raising measures to balance a $300 million shortfall in the state’s K-12 education budget.

If passed in its current form, the bill would earmark a 1-percent sales tax hike for education, redirect funds from the state’s savings accounts to the state’s school foundation program account and make some adjustments to the education model. The adjustments include the following: 

  • increasing class sizes by two students; 
  • increasing teacher salaries by 10 percent and reducing administrative salaries by the same amount and 
  • increasing school districts’ allowable cash reserves from 15 percent to 25 percent.

That would equate to about a $10 million cut each year for the next three years.

“If you add all of those things up – when the 1-percent sales tax kicks in – it would equal over $300 million” in savings, Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, said. 

House Bill 173 is a substitute for a bill drafted by the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration, which originally proposed a $100 million cut to the school foundation program account.

The House Education Committee debated amendments all week. 

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, raised questions about altering the Legislature’s education model, which prescribes things like pay and classroom size.

In the end, Reps. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne; Steve Harshman, R-Casper; Sandy Newsome, R-Cody; Sommers and Committee Chair Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment, voted to advance the bill as amended, which now moves to the House floor for consideration.


Jackson man charged with felony rape

JACKSON — A Teton County man is facing a charge of first-degree sexual assault after police said he forced himself on a woman and smacked her face before raping her.

Chris Tarpey, 31, pleaded not guilty to the charge Wednesday in the 9th Judicial District Court in Jackson. 

According to court records, Tarpey is accused of showing up drunk at the woman’s Jackson apartment late on July 23. The woman told Jackson Police Department detectives that the plan was to smoke and watch a movie. Text messages showed she specifically told Tarpey there would be no sex.

“[The woman] stated Mr. Tarpey forcefully removed her clothing and got on top of her,” police wrote in court documents. “[She] asked him to stop. [The woman] said Mr. Tarpey stared at her and struck her right cheek with his palm, twice.”

Then he said, “Take it, bitch,” according to records.

The woman again asked him to stop, but she said Tarpey kept physically positioning her where he wanted her, penetrating her without her consent.

“After [the woman] and Mr. Tarpey separated, she texted him that what happened in the bedroom was not acceptable,” court records state. “Mr. Tarpey responded with an apology.”

Detectives tried to reach Tarpey on July 28 but could not locate him at his apartment.

He was booked in December in South Carolina as a fugitive. 

He has since bonded out and appeared virtually before Judge Timothy Day in the 9th Judicial District Court last week. 

The Teton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office made a motion for a protection order for the woman, which the court granted.

Tarpey’s pretrial hearing has been set for April 27, with a jury trial to follow on June 1.


Cheyenne man sentenced in felony child abuse case

CHEYENNE – A man accused of drunkenly beating his young son and then kicking him out of the house was sentenced Thursday morning in Laramie County District Court.

District Judge Catherine Rogers sentenced Thomas Michael Dyson Sr. to five years of supervised probation, with a suspended sentence of two to four years of incarceration, as well as a requirement to complete DUI court and residential treatment and pay restitution for his son’s medical bills resulting from the incident.

Dyson previously pleaded no contest to felony child abuse with physical injury as part of a plea agreement.

Dyson also admitted Thursday to a bond violation as part of the agreement. He was arrested Dec. 11 for driving under the influence of alcohol, among other charges, which was a violation of his bond conditions.

In December 2018, Dyson struck his son several times in the face and chest, and then told his son to leave the house and not return, according to court documents. The boy went to a friend’s house and reported the incident to his friend’s mother, who called the police. The incident occurred during a snowstorm, and the boy was not wearing warm clothing when he was kicked out of the house, according to court documents.

The boy was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center and treated for his injuries, which included a bruised chest, swollen ear and bloody nose.

Dyson was later contacted by police in front of his home, smelling strongly of alcohol. He told police he’d drunk “several” bottles of vodka over the past few hours and “f---ed him up,” referring to his son, after an argument.