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Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc. v. City of Cheyenne

Supreme Court of Wyoming

December 23, 2016

CHEYENNE NEWSPAPERS, INC., d/b/a The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, a Wyoming corporation, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
CITY OF CHEYENNE, WYOMING, Appellee (Defendant).

         Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: Bruce T. Moats, Law Office of Bruce T. Moats, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: John H. Ridge, Deputy City Attorney, Alessandra K. McCoy, Assistant City Attorney, and Benjamin J. Rowland, Assistant City Attorney, City of Cheyenne, City Attorney's Office, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Rowland.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          FOX, Justice.

         [¶1] The Cheyenne City Council created the Employee Investment Study Implementation Team (EIS Team) to consider alternative means of implementing the recommendations of a staffing and compensation study conducted by the City's contractor. The City refused the newspaper's request that the EIS Team meetings be open to the public, and the newspaper sued the City, requesting an order declaring that the EIS Team must comply with the Wyoming Public Meetings Act. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the City, holding that the EIS Team was not subject to the Act. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc. (Tribune-Eagle) submits three issues on appeal, which we narrow to the following question: Is the EIS Team an "agency" subject to the Wyoming Public Meetings Act?

         FACTS

         [¶3] In 2012, the City of Cheyenne (City) hired Mercer Group, Inc. to conduct an employee investment study to determine appropriate staffing levels and pay ranges for various departments and classifications of City employees. In anticipation of receiving the Compensation and Classification Study (Mercer Study), the City Council passed Resolution No. 5508, which created the EIS Team. The full text of Resolution No. 5508 reads:

WHEREAS, the City of Cheyenne engaged the Mercer Group, LLC, to conduct an employee investment study to determine appropriate staffing levels and pay ranges for the various departments and classifications of City employees; and
WHEREAS, it is anticipated that the Mercer Group, LLC, will complete the employee investment study prior to the end of July 2013; and
WHEREAS, various members of the Governing Body of the City of Cheyenne have expressed an interest in serving on a committee to consider alternative means of implementing the recommendations of the Mercer Group following completion of the employee investment study; and
WHEREAS, it would be beneficial if representatives of employee groups covered by the employee investment study, and various members of the City's administrative staff also serve on the committee; and
WHEREAS, a final plan must be submitted to the Governing Body for approval no later than January 1, 2014, and implementation process must begin with the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GOVERNING BODY OF THE CITY OF CHEYENNE, WYOMING, that the "Employee Investment Study Implementation Team" is hereby created; that said team be composed of the following individuals (in alphabetical order): Sean Allen [City Council member], Jim Brown [City Council member], Bill Gonzales [City Public Works employee], Lois Huff [City Treasurer], Rick Kaysen [City Mayor], Tim Rumpf [City Police Department employee], Jason Sanchez [City Parks & Recreation employee], Theresa Snyder [City Clerk's office employee], Sara Vasquez [City Treasurer's office employee], and Rich Wiederspahn [City Human Resources Director], and that said Team be directed to consider the recommendations of the employee investment study and alternative methods of implementing those recommendations which are approved by the Governing Body of the City of Cheyenne.

(Emphasis added.)

         [¶4] Upon completion of the Mercer Study, the City Council passed Resolution No. 5535, which acknowledged receipt of the Mercer Study[1] and referred it to the EIS Team. Resolution No. 5535 reads in part:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GOVERNING BODY OF THE CITY OF CHEYENNE, WYOMING, that the Governing Body acknowledges receipt of "The City of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Compensation and Classification Study, Final Report, " dated October 1, 2013, attached hereto as Exhibit A.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that "The City of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Compensation and Classification Study, Final Report, " dated October 1, 2013, is hereby referred to the "Employee Investment Study Implementation Team" to consider the recommendations of said Compensation and Classification Study and to prepare a plan containing alternative means of implementing all or some of the recommendations of said study, together with such other recommendations as shall be forthcoming upon final completion of the employee investment study, said implementation plan to be ...

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