AP News Update

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AP News Update

Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment
WILDERNESS ACADEMY-LAWSUIT

Wyo.-based wilderness academy sued over 2011 death

LANDER, Wyo. (AP) - The mother of a Minnesota man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a well-known Wyoming-based wilderness training academy.

The lawsuit filed in federal court by Elizabeth Brenner of Minnetonka, Minn., accuses the National Outdoor Leadership School of negligence in the September 2011 death of her son Thomas Plotkin.

The 20-year-old man died during a backpacking trip in India that was led by the school. The lawsuit says Thomas Plotkin slipped on a wet rock and plunged 300 feet down a ravine. His body was never found.

The lawsuit doesn't specify a specific damage amount but states the number is in excess of $75,000.

Bruce Palmer is director for admission and marketing at the Lander-based National Outdoor Leadership School. He says there was no disciplinary action for any of the school's employees involved. He declined to elaborate on the incident, citing pending litigation.

HEALTH REFORM-WYOMING

Wyoming faces over 2,500 insurance cancellations

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Private insurance companies have given notice to the state of Wyoming that they plan to cancel over 2,600 health insurance policies for state residents largely because of increased regulation and higher minimum standards set by the federal Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming Insurance Commissioner Tom Hirsig says the cancellations mostly will take effect in December and March. Other companies already have cancelled over 500 health policies in the state.

Hirsig says many of the customers whose policies are being cancelled would qualify for federal subsidies to get approved health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. However, he says it's unclear when government-approved coverage will be available on a federal Web site that's been plagued with problems.

Federal officials have said the Web site should be functional by the end of November.

BROTHERS SLAYING

Wyo. men plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Two Wyoming men have pleaded guilty in federal court in connection with the death of an Idaho man.

Brothers 61-year-old Alan Brown and 54-year-old Vernon Brown, both members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, appeared Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper.

The brothers pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aiding and abetting in connection with the 2006 death of 47-year-old Tad Paul Barnson, originally from Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Prosecutors charged that Vernon Brown killed Barnson by beating and wounding him and that Alan Brown aided his brother.

The brothers each face a maximum sentence of eight years in prison at sentencing in January.

Barnson had been living near Riverton before his death. His remains were found in March on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

ROCK SPRINGS KILLING

Rock Springs teen pleads guilty to 2012 killing

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. (AP) - A Rock Springs teen has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2012 death of a 17-year-old boy.

Nineteen-year-old Brady Jacob Trevino pleaded guilty on Wednesday before state District Court Judge Nena James as part of a plea agreement.

Authorities say Rigoberto "Junior" Alvarado, of Rock Springs, died on July 29 or 30, 2012, and his body was found on Aug. 19, 2012 by a group exploring the remains of abandoned coal camps and mining operations north of Rock Springs.

Trevino said he and Alvarado got into a fight and he hit Alvarado with a baseball bat and put a plastic bag over his head.

A presentence investigation will be done. No sentencing date was set.

Two others are charged in the case.

STATE EMPLOYEE PAY

Merit pay could be part of state employee raises

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The State Employment Compensation Commission is recommending a pilot program to test a new way to distribute salary increases among state employees.

The proposed model would take into account performance evaluations and market-pay considerations to determine how much a given employee would receive whenever lawmakers approve raises.

The Wyoming Department of Corrections would be used for the pilot program.

Officials with the state's Department of Administration and Information Human Resources Division said incorporating merit-based pay would help bring fairness and efficiency to how the state pays its employees.

Program supervisor Lori Eichheim says the proposed model rewards an employee for better performance while giving policy-makers room for flexibility.

WYOMING-LNG

Gov: Coal trucks should use liquid natural gas

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A study is underway on how to create and sell liquefied natural gas in Wyoming.

Rob Hurless is Gov. Matt Mead's energy strategy adviser.

Hurless says the study will look at potential consumption of LNG for high-horsepower equipment engines such as mine haul trucks, railroad locomotives and large pipeline compressor stations. He says many of those run on diesel but LGN could potentially save companies money depending on prices over the long term.

He says LNG is powering four coal-haul trucks at mines in the Powder River Basin.

Hurless says the study will also consider the possibilities of constructing LNG plants in Wyoming or setting up smaller, skid-mounted plants throughout the state.

The state and industry are sharing the cost of the $150,000 study.

UW LAW SCHOOL DEAN

UW College of Law dean resigns effective Nov. 15

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - The University of Wyoming is starting a search for a new law school dean.

UW announced Thursday that Stephen Easton had submitted his resignation as dean the College of Law, effective Nov. 15. Easton had been dean since 2009.

UW President Bob Sternberg said in a statement that he was unable to persuade Easton to remain in the position.

Sternberg says the university plans to name an interim dean while it searchers for a new, permanent dean.

An advisory task force will be set up to provide advice on the law school.

GOVERNOR-HALLOWEEN

Gov. Mead invites kids to come to the mansion

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Gov. Matt Mead and first lady Carol Mead are inviting trick-or-treaters and their families to come by the Governor's Residence in Cheyenne on Halloween night.

The governor and his family say they will welcome trick-or-treaters from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the residence, at 5001 Central Avenue in Cheyenne.

TELEVISION STATIONS SOLD

KOTA-TV group sold to Schurz Communications

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Duhamel Broadcasting Enterprises has sold KOTA-TV in Rapid City and its affiliated stations in Nebraska and Wyoming to Schurz Communications Inc.

Duhamel president and general manager Bill Duhamel announced it Thursday.

KOTA reports the sale is pending regulatory approval by the Federal Communications Commission, which typically can take at least 90 days.

Duhamel Broadcasting will continue to operate its five Black Hills radio stations.

Schurz is headquartered in South Bend, Ind. It operates six local radio stations in the Black Hills and also owns the Aberdeen American News.

Its senior vice president of the electronic division, Marci Burdick, is a Rapid City native and was a former KOTA news anchor and news director.

KOTA's satellite stations are KHSD in Lead-Deadwood, KSGW in Sheridan, Wyo., and KDUH in Scottsbluff, Neb.

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