Wyoming news briefs for May 26

Defendants in bank lawsuit deny wrongdoing

SHERIDAN — Seven former employees sued by First Interstate Bank denied wrongdoing in separate responses filed in District Court of Wyoming on Friday.

FIB filed the civil lawsuit in mid-April for compensatory and punitive damages, accusing the former employees of utilizing proprietary information to compete with FIB and further their own economic interests.

According to information set forward in the complaint, seven individuals employed with FIB announced March 22 they intended to leave FIB to take jobs with another bank — Glacier Bank — that plans to establish a presence in Sheridan under the name First Bank of Wyoming. 

The seven individuals named in the lawsuit are: David Hubert, former market president, senior vice-president of FIB; Nicole Christensen, former commercial group manager II and vice president of FIB; Donovan McComb, former vice president of FIB; Jay Martinson, former assistant vice president of FIB; John Dick, former member of FIB’s commercial banking unit; Kimberlee Newman, former member of FIB’s commercial banking unit; and Myriah Phelps, former member of FIB’s commercial banking unit.

“Plaintiffs’ loss of customers, or market share, is solely the result of First Interstate Bank’s own conduct and policies and procedures it put in place, putting it at a disadvantage when competing with community banks,” each defendant’s response to the complaint states.

First Bank of Wyoming’s lending group currently has an office at 1470 Sugarland Drive, Suite 2 and representatives of the bank said they anticipate having a full-service branch up and running mid-summer.


Masks will stay on in Jackson schools

JACKSON — Teachers and students will finish the school year the same way they started it, wearing masks.

Though State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist is allowing her statewide mask mandate for schools to expire Monday, she approved a local order that will be in place from June 1 to 11 for public and private schools in Teton County. Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell asked for the county order to cover the rest of the school year, which goes later in Teton County public schools than in many other parts of Wyoming.

“Since most Teton County students are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine or fully vaccinated, we want to continue to ensure their safety during in-person learning,” Riddell said in a statement. “Wearing a mask is still the first line of defense against COVID-19 for most children in the school setting.”

The switch from a state order to a county order won’t change anything for students. Masks have been mandated all school year, so kids and teachers are used to face coverings at this point.

Some parents, on the other hand, are ready for the mandate to be lifted. Others fell on the opposite side, asking the board to keep the mandate in place, but the district has little say over what public health officials require. Teton County School District No. 1 communications director Charlotte Reynolds told the News&Guide that though the district didn’t have any sway in the decision, it would follow the edict.


Two killed in Evanston motorcycle crash

EVANSTON — Two Evanston residents were killed last week after a single-vehicle motorcycle crash on Harrison Drive. 

The fatal crash occurred at 8:40 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19. 

“A 2010 Harley Davidson was headed south on Harrison (Drive) at a high rate of speed. The motorcycle driver could not negotiate a slight curve to the left and collided with a concrete sidewalk. The driver and passenger were thrown from the motorcycle on impact with the sidewalk,” a press release from the Wyoming Highway Patrol states. 

The Harley driver has been identified as 45-year-old Evanston resident Delbert Wayne Penny. Penny was not wearing a helmet and was transported by helicopter to the University of Utah, where he succumbed to his injuries. 

The passenger has been identified as 43-year-old Evanston resident Kristine Connie Alexakos. Alexakos was not wearing a helmet and succumbed to her injuries at the scene of the crash.

Speed and alcohol use are being investigated as possible contributing factors. 


Fremont Co. turns to new ambulance provider

RIVERTON — Two ambulance providers came forward May 21 to express interest in working for Fremont County. One is the county’s current ambulance company, American Medical Response, which announced in March that it would not renew its contract with the local government entity. 

The other proposal came from Priority Ambulance – the group the Fremont County Commission selected for continued negotiations during a special meeting Tuesday. 

Commission chairman Travis Becker said Priority’s proposal would require about $900,000 in subsidies from Fremont County, while AMR would need $1.2 million for one year and $1.9 million for the next. 

He expressed a preference for negotiating with Priority that was echoed by Commissioner Mike Jones, who noted that Priority does not come with an “air component.” “(That’s) something I was hoping we might find,” Jones said, pointing to logistical difficulties that arise when incorporating air ambulance services into the local dispatch system. 

Citing conversations with Priority representatives, Jones added, “In terms of the transfers that happen between here and Casper … we’re finding that 50 percent could be by ground, which would save everybody a lot of money.” 

He has spoken with a handful of people who have interacted with Priority in the past, however, and Jones said the comments were mixed, with some good and others “not so good.” 

Mixed reviews are “typical of any business,” Jones said, but he also emphasized that “we have to do a lot of homework” before committing to a new ambulance provider. 

“I don’t think this is a done deal by any means,” Jones said.


First wild horse adoption to be held at Wheatland facility

WHEATLAND — The Bureau of Land Management will hold its first ever adoption event at the new Wheatland Wild Horse and Burro Off-Range Corralon June 5 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

The BLM will offer approximately 50 wild horses and burros for adoption, with a viewing of the animals taking place on June 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

“We are excited to share this new facility and these wonderful wild horses and burros with the public,” said Clay Stott, Wild Horse Specialist, and acting BLM manager of the Wheatland Facility. “This is a world class facility for these horses, but ultimately we want to see each get the opportunity to be adopted into a knowledgeable and caring forever home.” 

The horses will be available for adoption on a first-come, first-served basis. Any person wishing to adopt a wild horse must fill out an application, be able to conform to the BLM’s minimum adoption requirements and have their application approved by the BLM. 

Wild Horse and Burro specialists will be on hand to answer questions and assist with adoption applications. 

The facility is located approximately 12 miles north of Wheatland at 1005 North Wheatland Highway in Wheatland.