Wyoming news briefs for August 5


Governor says no to mask mandate for state, school districts

CODY – The state won’t force mask requirements on local school districts and won't institute another statewide rule.

Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday afternoon he would not institute another statewide mask rule or mandate masks in schools this fall but would stand behind local decisions.

Cody School District staff members said previously they were looking to the state department of education for guidance on COVID-19-related issues. 

“Wyoming was first in the nation in having a safe and successful in-person school year last year,” Gordon said. “My focus is on supporting local school boards as they take into account conditions in their community and work to assure students learn safely this year too.”

As he has done throughout the pandemic, Gordon will work with the Wyoming Department of Education and the Wyoming Department of Health to ensure districts are prepared to respond to changes in local conditions with equipment, testing and expertise.

“We need to follow and respect the science,” Gordon added.

The Wyoming Department of Health recently reported that among 300 persons infected by COVID-19 who were recently hospitalized, nearly 94 percent were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The number of new COVID-19 vaccinations has been increasing during July as the Delta variant of the virus has become dominant in the state.

Gordon firmly supports the rights of private businesses to operate in the manner they deem best. 

In May the governor issued a directive that prevents state agencies, boards and commissions from requiring “vaccine passports” to access state spaces and state services. That directive remains in place. It encourages other entities, including local governments and private businesses, not to impose vaccine mandates.

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Commission moves ahead with Kuhl suspension

SUNDANCE –- Crook County Treasurer Mary Kuhl will no longer have access to the credit cards used within the Crook County Treasurer’s Office. 

The county commissioners moved on Monday morning to cancel the old cards and have new ones issued, with Acting Treasurer Tammy Jundt listed as the authorized user. 

This decision was made following the arrest of Kuhl last week on charges related to her conduct while in office. 

Kuhl is accused of placing a customer’s license tabs on her own vehicle after claiming they were lost in the mail, adjusting the tax system to hide missing money and helping a personal friend avoid paying a registration fee. 

On the civil side of things, the commissioners made the decision last week to send a verified complaint to the office of Governor Mark Gordon. The complaint asks for Kuhl to be removed from office. 

The complaint, now filed, requests that Gordon direct the Attorney General “to commence and prosecute an action in the district court of Crook County asking for the removal of the Crook County Treasurer for being guilty of misconduct or malfeasance in office.” 

The commissioners also ask that Gordon issue an order suspending Kuhl from the further exercise of her duties until the termination of her trial. This will allow the board to appoint someone to temporarily fulfill Kuhl’s office. 

The complaint is based on the charges filed with Circuit Court as well as, “Any misconduct or malfeasance in office discovered in previous criminal investigations and the ongoing federal investigation commencing in the spring of 2019.” 

Kuhl will appear in Circuit Court for a preliminary hearing on August 12.

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Man charged with murder in fatal shooting in Osage

NEWCASTLE — Paul Eugene Manders has officially been charged with second-degree murder and remains in custody following the fatal shooting of Osage resident Vernon Clyde last week.

Bond was set at $150,000 by Judge Mathew Castano after an initial hearing for Manders on July 29 in the Circuit Court for the Sixth Judicial District.

Weston County Attorney Alex Berger identified Manders, who is approximately 58 years old, as a potential flight risk. 

“The allegations, if proven true, (are that) he killed another person with a firearm. He is dangerous. I would say that also waives in favor of a significant cash bond,” Berger said. 

Manders informed the court that he had been unemployed for approximately two years and was on disability, giving him little ability to come up with the cash for his release. 

If convicted, Manders faces no less than 20 years in prison with a maximum sentence of life in prison. A fine of no more than $10,000 may also be added to the sentence. 

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Grizzly 399 back in the southern valley, this time in peak summer

JACKSON — A beloved 25-year-old grizzly bear raising four cubs is once again outside her usual Grand Teton National Park home range and has been on the go through subdivisions and ranchland.

Grizzly 399, a bear that has attracted global adulation and fanfare, has made these movements before: In 2020, she spent most of November south of Highway 22, then returned to her normal haunts — and has stayed away since. But that was during the slowest time of year in Jackson Hole.

“We have concerns no matter what time of year,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Mark Gocke told the Jackson Hole Daily. “But definitely, with the number of people who are visiting here right now, it elevates that level of concern.”

Grizzly 399 and her four cubs generally stayed out of trouble during her 2020 month long sojourn in the southern valley, though there were exceptions. 

The highly habituated sow, which has spent the last 15 years living amid thousands of park visitors, successfully exploited human-related foods on several occasions. 

Oftentimes food-motivated bruins are unable to break bad habits, such as raiding food in residential areas, once they learn the behavior. But Grizzly 399 was an exception, at least initially. She successfully resumed her life as a wild bear, feeding on hunter-killed elk last winter and then elk calves this past spring. 

But already, her time outside the park is off to a rough start.

“Unfortunately, they got into some livestock feed yesterday,” Game and Fish bear biologist Mike Boyce said Wednesday.

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Upton resident dies in crash

NEWCASTLE — Driver fatigue is being investigated as a potential cause for a crash that killed Shon D. Engel of Upton, according to a news release from the Wyoming Highway Patrol. 

“On August 1, 2021, a fatal crash occurred around milepost nine on Wyoming Highway 16 south of Sundance, Wyoming,” the release says. “At 5:36 a.m., Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers were notified of a one-vehicle rollover.” 

The 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche driven by 41-year-old Engel was headed north on Wyoming 116, south of Sundance. The vehicle crossed into the southbound lane before exiting the left side of the road and overturning. 

Engel was not wearing a seatbelt and succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the crash. 

“This is the 58th fatality on Wyoming’s roadways in 2021, compared with 64 in 2020, 96 in 2019 and 61 in 2018 to date,” the release states.

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