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In Cheyenne, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle is suing the city to give the public and the press access when its council (or mayor ) appointed committee meets to talk about resetting salaries for city employees.
And so it came up at the end of the meeting. But the abrupt vote cost Stith an opportunity to argue for his client that they might consider whether his application could be grandfathered in.
True, it may or may not have changed the outcome had Stith been present. But by the time the moratorium was lifted, the developer couldn't afford to start over, and the project was scrapped.
"I remember my sense of disappointment," Stith said. "The county attorney knew I was there. No one bothered to tell me this was coming up."
Stith said he was at a county commission meeting representing a different client on a different matter. The commissioners recessed, and Stith left, returning to work. His item had been discussed, voted on and settled.
But later that day, he got a call from his wind developer client, and he was angry. He had just learned that the commissioners voted to put a moratorium on wind farm developments.
Sometimes, he added, the controversy has an effect that may surprise some people: Instead of driving away prospective candidates, controversy inspires more people to run for office.
Often, but not always, it is the press, rather than the public, at the front lines of these battles and lawsuits, said Bruce Moats, a Cheyenne based attorney who specializes in open government laws.
public officials accountable "in the court of public opinion is a much more effective way than prosecution."
This surprised Stith: He looked at the agenda hours before, and there wasn't anything on it about the moratorium.
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"It's helpful to the public if the agenda is made available," he said. "It is the public's business, and it is their money."
press are rarely prosecuted, a conviction is not necessarily the goal, Moats said.
Finally, The Sheridan Press has asked the court to review the executive session minutes of the Sheridan County School District 2 Board of Trustees. The newspaper alleges that body met in secret to talk about a new multipurpose facility.
"The whole public needs to do that, though the media has traditionally led the way," he said.
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the vote as targeted to his client's project, Nike Roshe Run Gray Pink Stith didn't think it was out of malice. That year, the Legislature had amended wind energy regulations.
In February, the Casper City Council hastily gathered for a special meeting to talk via Skype about its conflict of interest inquest on a councilman. The councilman's attorney got 15 minutes' notice. The press and public? None.
In a true democracy a government for the people, by the people the people need to know, he said.
"Apathy and mistrust from the public are much greater problems than controversy," Moats said. "Apathy seems to drive the bus."
In addition to running for a statewide office, Stith now serves on the Rock Springs City Council. He understands things come up at meetings, but he said the takeaway from this situation is the public needs to be given every opportunity to participate.
How illegal meetings hurt Wyoming
"I think the staff had wanted to digest them so they could make sure they were not out of compliance," Stith said.
Clark Stith, an attorney based in Rock Springs, remembers a client who was blindsided in 2010 by a surprise action by the Sweetwater County Commission.
"I would have said, 'Hey, fine, do a moratorium on new applications. My client's application has been sitting here for two years,'" Stith said.
"He was a small investor who was trying to make it work," Stith said. He didn't have the resources of a large company to "wait for the government to make up its mind."
"What you want is to have the meetings open," Moats said. To get there, sometimes holding Nike Roshe Run Premium
"History has told us knowledge leads to better government," he said.
Here in the Cowboy State, it seems like a few times a year, a news report comes out blowing the whistle on elected officials for taking the conversation behind closed doors.
Stith, who is now a Republican candidate for the open Wyoming secretary of state seat, said his client's proposed wind farm was officially brought to a halt with no notice.
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