From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 47 - February 19, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Suing Sublette County

by Cat Urbigkit

Sublette County Commissioners stayed in open session Tuesday to discuss litigation issues and potential litigation with Sublette County Attorney Van Graham.

Graham said since the matter was litigation, the commission could go into executive session, although it didn't have to. The commission made no move to close the meeting, so Graham tackled the first litigation issue: the recent district court complaint filed by Bob Harrower regarding the county's purchase of development rights program.

"We're not surprised to see it," Graham said. "It was anticipated."

Graham explained that the complaint seeks a declaration from the district court that the program is illegal. The complaint should be answered, Graham said, and argued before the court. Once the district court issues its decision, if either party isn't satisfied, the decision can be appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Graham said he is awaiting word whether the county insurance company will provide a defense. He said that the company probably would not, so he'll prepare an answer.

The answer must be filed within 20 days of the day the county was served, which occurred on Feb. 10.

"It will be kind of neat to have it determined," Commission Chairman Gordon Johnston said.

Graham noted, "There is a conflict issue that we need to address."

Graham said that since the complaint is against both the county and the commissioners as elected officials, "there is a technical conflict."

That conflict is that Graham is representing both Sublette County and its elected officials.

"The conflict issue is minimal, but it's there," Graham said. After discussing the matter further, the commission agreed that Graham should prepare a statement waiving the conflict issue for the commission to sign. That will demonstrate that the commission has been notified of the conflict and dealt with it.

Next, Graham notified the commission that High Desert Construction LLC of Rock Springs had filed a claim against the county in which it also threatened litigation. The claim was based on a statute that generally provides, in cases that the county is legally required to advertise for bids, it shall let the project to the lowest bidder. The statute also includes a five-percent preference for in-state bidders.

High Desert submitted a bid for dirt work associated with the new Hi-Country Senior Citizens building under construction in Pinedale. But the commission awarded the bid to local contractor Teletractors Inc. with its bid of only $500 higher than the High Desert bid.

Graham explained that High Desert's claim is for the amount of difference between the two bids.

The commission discussed the matter with Graham, with Commissioner Betty Fear noting that she didn't believe the county was required to put the project out for bid, but simply chose to do so.

Commissioner Bill Cramer made the motion to deny the claim, which Fear seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford reminded the commission that last May, High Desert submitted a claim to the county for the cost of preparing the bid, since the company was low bidder but didn't get the job. At that time, the county declined the claim.

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