CHEYENNE – The case of whether the Laramie County Board of Commissioners had the authority to dissolve the Laramie County Fair Board will be argued Thursday morning before the Wyoming Supreme Court.
The lawsuit centers around the commissioners’ decision to dissolve the fair board in late 2018, and the two entities are at odds over whether the commissioners had the power to do so. The commissioners dissolved the fair board to create an events department that would run the fair and other recreational opportunities in Laramie County, primarily due to the addition of the Event Center at Archer.
The fair board is being represented by attorney Gay Woodhouse, and the commissioners are represented by Steven Freudenthal.
Earlier this year, Laramie County District Judge Thomas Campbell ruled that the commissioners did have the authority to dissolve the fair board. The fair board is appealing this decision.
In their brief to the Supreme Court, fair board members are asking the court to review if the district court erred when it issued a summary judgement in favor of the commissioners. That ruling said commissioners could dissolve the fair board despite the lack of statutory authority for the dissolution. The brief also asks justices to determine if Campbell erred when he said the fair board couldn’t challenge use of money collected by the Laramie County Fair mill levy.
In May 2017, voters approved a 0.5 mill levy, collected in 2017 and 2018, for about $9 million to build the Laramie County Archer Complex. The mill levy is no longer being collected, according to the Laramie County Assessor’s website.
For the basis of their argument, the fair board is saying Wyoming state statute doesn’t give the commissioners the right to dissolve the fair board, the Legislature intended the fair board to “exist in perpetuity” because there is no dissolution procedure, no other entity has the authority to manage a fairground or its funds once a fair board is created, and the case law the district court relied upon for its decision isn’t valid.
The fair board is also arguing that the mill levy ballot question was very specific in saying the mill would go to the fair board for its use, and the funds will only be expended by the fair board. The argument also says the district court failed to address this issue.
However, the commissioners are arguing that the fair board hasn’t demonstrated that they have any genuine rights versus theoretical rights. The commissioners argue there was no financial harm to members of the fair board, since they’re volunteers, and no other direct harm to the fair board other than possible hurt feelings.
The commissioners also state the fair board fails to give any allegations in its argument that the mill levy funds have gone to any purpose other than fair operation, which the commissioners say they haven’t.
In addition, the commissioners also accuse the fair board of: having conflict of interests with construction contracts, creating difficulties in getting the Archer Complex built, resisted competitive bidding, violated construction and financing policies, and created personnel management issues, major accounting issues and inadequate insurance coverage levels for events and contracts.
But the commissioners are also arguing against the Supreme Court appeal by saying it’s moot. The commissioners say there is no longer a mill levy, and the only money being collected now is in the form of delinquent taxes. Therefore, the argument that the fair board is presenting about the mill levy is irrelevant.
The Supreme Court issued an order in mid-December saying it would consider the mootness argument at the time of the oral arguments, along with the appeal.