Laramie County Fair Board dissolved
December 7, 2018
When the Laramie County Commissioners unanimously voted to dissolve the Laramie County Fair Board of Trustees, questions arose immediately about the fair, the facilities and the funds. The board was established over 100 years ago by the county commissioners as authorized by Wyoming statutes.
Judge Thomas Campbell heard the case presented on Dec. 4 by Gay Woodhouse, attorney for the Laramie County Fair Board of Trustees and while the result wasn't a clear win, Woodhouse said she is positive and is hoping for an ultimate decision by the end of February.
Judge Campbell did not reinstate the Fair Board of Trustees at the hearing, but she said she believes he understood their position that the dissolving of the board was an abuse of power and violates Wyoming law.
"Once this multi-use, multi-million-dollar facility became an issue, it seems the County Commissioners have eroded or tried to erode the authority of the Fair Board of Trustees," Woodhouse said.
“We’re not planning on cutting any funding at all from the fair. ... The plan is to run the fair like it has been for the last 100 years and continue to improve it, and we want that to continue to grow and be the best fair in Wyoming.”
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The facility referred to is the Archer Complex, scheduled to be complete during the summer of 2019.
Woodhouse said the commissioners had not yet replaced a fifth board trustee who resigned in August and had not responded to communication from other trustees in the past months, telling the trustees they were too busy to meet and would meet on Nov. 20.
The commissioners voted unanimously on Nov. 20 to dissolve the Fair Board of Trustees to create an Events Department. According to Woodhouse, the Fair Board of Trustees, by statute, has perpetual existence and cannot be replaced by the Events Department.
"The only meeting scheduled was Nov. 20 at 2 o'clock and by then the fair board found out about this coup they intended to inflict upon them and they didn't want to meet with them," she said. "Our position is if they want to have an Events Department and add the county government, they need to have the Laramie County Fair Board of Trustees as part of it."
According to Laramie County Commissioner Troy Thompson, DVM, the commissioners have a deep respect for the fair as well as the 4-H and FFA programs, as four of the five commissioners came through the programs themselves.
MANAGING ARCHER COMPLEX
Thompson said when the voters approved the Archer Complex, the goal was to host the fair at the facility with the possibility of other events as well including rodeos, motocross, concerts and other events that would bring people to the community and help the complex operate in the black without a subsidy from Laramie County.
"That's a big ask on a volunteer fair board to have to manage this facility," he said.
The commissioners then considered hiring a professional events manager to oversee events at multiple venues with the fair falling under a newly formed Events Department. After dissolving the Fair Board of Trustees, the intention is to bring the fair staff onto the county payroll. An Events Advisory Board will be formed to oversee the management of the events, much like the Fair Board of Trustees. Thompson said the hope was to include willing members of the now defunct Fair Board of Trustees on the Events Advisory Board as part of a smooth transition and said they are welcome to apply.
"The plan was to make that smooth transition but when you start talking about hiring an attorney and suing Laramie County, that changes things," he said.
The Laramie County Fair Board of Trustees is also the administrator of the funds from a mill levy and Thompson said it will be used for the fair.
"We're not planning on cutting any funding at all from the fair," he said. "The plan is to run the fair like it has been for the last 100 years and to continue to improve it and we want that to continue and continue to grow and be the best fair in Wyoming."
The resolution on Nov. 20 created the Events Department and the commissioners are currently accepting applicants for the position of events manager.
Ultimately, Woodhouse hopes to see the commissioners reinstate the Fair Board of Trustees and for the two groups to work collaboratively for the fair.
"This has always been a very cordial and collaborative relationship between the commissioners and the Laramie County Fair Board of Trustees and there's no reason whatsoever that it should have come to this," she said. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 392-4410.