Oct 9, 2015

Cody coach OK after accidently driving school district vehicle through wall of Basin gas station

A Cody High School coach accidentally crashed a school district vehicle through the wall of a Basin gas station on Saturday night.

The Basin Republican Rustler reported that CHS tennis coach Norman Sedig, 66, drove a Park County School District No. 6 suburban through the wall of the Overland Express around 9 p.m. on Oct. 3. Sedig appeared to have mistaken the gas pedal for the brakes, the Republican Rustler reported.

No injuries were reported to Basin police.

The Saturday crash caused significant damage to Basin's Overland Express. Photo courtesy Laurie Morstad/Basin Republican Rustler
Ray Schulte, the Cody district’s superintendent, said this week that Sedig seems to be doing fine. Sedig was returning home from the state tennis competition in Gillette when the accident occurred. No students were in the vehicle.

The crash caused significant damage to the building, but minimal damage to the school district's vehicle, Schulte said. He said the district is still assessing the damages to the building and working with the Overland.

“It is unfortunate. We don’t feel good about causing damage to that business, but hopefully it will be repaired quickly,” Schulte said told the Republican Rustler. “We are so happy no one got hurt.”

Sedig was issued a careless driving citation by the Basin Police Department.

Lacy Davis, who works at the Overland, said she was shocked when the vehicle drove into the building. She said there were some customers in the building at the time.

“I couldn’t believe what happened,” Davis said. “I was shaking when I called the cops.”

~Story courtesy Kynli Smith, Basin Republican Rustler

Oct 8, 2015

Prosecutors allege Cody man stole funds from Wyoming search and rescue organization

When a non-profit organization created to support Wyoming’s search and rescue operations effectively shut down, prosecutors say a Cody man took much of its remaining money for himself and his personal climbing ventures.

Donald Foote Jr., 45, is facing a felony charge of larceny by bailee.

Don Foote, looking over a map of Cody area waterfalls, in 2011. File photo courtesy Ruffin Prevost, Yellowstonegate.com
Foote is alleged to have misspent thousands of dollars belonging to the Wyoming Search and Rescue Association (WYSARA) on his rent, his cell phone bills, electronics and other items in late 2011 and early 2012.

At the time, Foote was the president and only officer of the publicly funded association, which had a mission of providing training to search and rescue responders around the state.

WYSARA had its last official function in June 2011, according to an investigation by Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agent Juliet Fish.

“What the investigation revealed (was) that ... after September of 2011 — although (Foote) spent nearly $5,000 — he did nothing; he did not ... provide any further training; he did not send out for any dues; he did not do anything to further the Wyoming Search and Rescue Association,” Fish said at a preliminary hearing in the case on Monday.

Foote’s defense attorney, Bill Simpson of Simpson, Kepler and Edwards in Cody, argued that, as the association’s only officer, Foote had discretion in what would benefit WYSARA.

With Foote presumed to be innocent, Simpson argued his client deserved to be given the benefit of the doubt for the purchases he made with association’s debit card.

“It strikes me as a little strange that you're trying to put all the negative inferences against Mr. Foote,” Simpson told Fish.

For example, hundreds of the dollars went toward Foote’s personal travel, meals and lodging at climbing or training events around the region; Simpson suggested that if Foote was traveling to promote ice climbing, getting personal certifications or receiving personal training in climbing techniques, that could have directly or indirectly benefitted WYSARA.

WSARA’s bylaws generally prohibited members from using association money for their personal expenses like transportation, but Simpson said that would be a civil issue and not a criminal one.
Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters said it did appear the prosecution lacked the evidence to show that some of Foote’s thousands of dollars of purchases were criminal.

However, the judge found that — for the purposes of a preliminary hearing, where the evidentiary standards are relatively low — there was enough evidence that Foote had misspent at least a couple thousand dollars between September 2011 and February 2012.

Waters specifically cited:

• a $960 rent payment for Foote’s home in Cody

• a $570.42 purchase at the Sheridan Walmart for two Kindle Fires, a Nintendo Wii and a DVD copy of the movie Fireproof; Foote had reportedly tried buying the items with his personal credit card at first, then put them on the WYSARA debit card when his was declined

• a $445 magazine ad for the Foote-organized Cody Ice Climbing Festival

• $431.22 in personal Verizon bills

“Clearly, those are troubling charges,” Judge Waters said, allowing the larceny charge to proceed to District Court.

WYSARA, which got funding from law enforcement agencies and donations from hunters and anglers around the state, was officially dissolved in January 2012.

In September 2011, the group’s then-treasurer ended her relationship with the association and had her name removed from the debit card, Fish said. That left Foote as the only person in control of the card.

Authorities believe WYSARA held its last official event in June 2011.
A former WYSARA member contacted Park County Sheriff Scott Steward in November 2013 with concerns about the association — noting that the association’s account had been overdrawn and closed in early 2012, charging documents say. In February 2014, Steward asked DCI to look into it.

After pulling bank records, Fish found that “many of the transactions stood out as troublesome.” The agent interviewed Foote about the purchases in September 2014.

Foote said he didn’t remember using the WYSARA account to pay his rent or for the electronics at Walmart, Fish recounted in an affidavit. As for the ad in Rock & Ice Magazine for the Cody Ice Climbing Festival, Foote said it was promoting WYSARA — though Fish said the ad made no mention of the organization.

Foote repeatedly used “we” and “they” when referring to the charges on the card, Fish said in the affidavit.

“I told Foote that I did not know who the ‘we’ was that Foote was referring to and asked if there was someone that Foote was working with,” Fish wrote. “Foote responded that was just ‘me saying we, I guess.’”

As for paying his cell phone bills with the WYSARA card, Foote said he’d used the phone for some WYSARA work and described paying the whole bill with the card as “I guess poor decision making,” Fish wrote.

Foote said his travels around the region were “just my effort or my decision to try keep things going” with WYSARA, Fish recounted in the affidavit.

When explaining the purchases to DCI agents, Foote initially referred them as decisions that were made by “we” or “they,” but he ultimately said that was just “me saying we, I guess,” charging documents allege.

Sheriff Steward reportedly approached DCI after seeing a flyer for the 2014 Cody Ice Climbing Festival. The flyer advertised an “8th annual Wyoming Search and Rescue silent auction” — although the association had been dissolved two years earlier.

“We were trying,” Foote reportedly told Fish of the auction, adding, “We had a tent that was donated by one of the sponsors and they were trying to do something, but it never happened.”

Foote said he didn’t know what had happened to the tent and that no money had been raised, the affidavit says.

He reportedly said he’d also tried running a fundraising for WYSARA in 2012, but didn’t raise any money then, either.

Foote’s next court appearance will be an arraignment in District Court, where he’ll enter a plea. He is free on his own recognizance.

Oct 7, 2015

Yellowstone's Dunraven Pass staying open a little later; Beartooth Highway closes a little early

Yellowstone National Park enthusiasts are getting an extra week to travel across Dunraven Pass, while the Beartooth Highway has closed a bit early.

With good weather in the forecast and construction underway on the west side of the Yellowstone, park managers plan to leave the road over Dunraven Pass open until 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19

Dunraven Pass has remained generally snow-free so far. Photo courtesy National Park Service
"As always, the road may be closed at any time if weather conditions change and the pass becomes unsafe," Yellowstone officials said in a Tuesday announcement.

The stretch of the Grand Loop Road over Dunraven Pass connects Tower Fall and Canyon areas of Yellowstone, passing by Mount Washburn.

Up-to-date information on park roads is available at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm or by calling 307-344-2117.

Meanwhile, to the east of Yellostone, the Beartooth Highway officially closed for the season on Monday between its junction with the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and Red Lodge, Montana. The early closure was to allow some planned road work to take place, the Friends of the Beartooth All-American Road said.

Winter weather had already hit the high-elevation highway, with blowing and drifting snow shutting down a portion of the road on Friday.

You can still get to Cooke City, Silver Gate and Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance from the Cody area by using the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.

Oct 6, 2015

Former internee to share memories of living at Heart Mountain during WWII

Sam Mihara’s wartime confinement at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center began when he was 9 years old.

Following the 1942 attack on Pearl Harbor, soldiers took Mihara and his family from their home on the West Coast and moved them to a guarded camp in Wyoming. They lived at Heart Mountain, in a barrack room that was 20 feet by 20 feet in size, for three years.

In a free “Memories of Heart Mountain” program at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, at the Cody library, Mihara will recount the story of family and friends who lived with him in prison camp.
The Heart Mountain Relocation Center was once the third largest city in Wyoming. Peak occupancy was 10,767 people prior to closure in 1945.  Photo courtesy Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation
Mihara is a second generation Japanese American. He was born in San Francisco in 1933.

During World War II, the U.S. government sequestered 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and Arkansas.

Mihara will also describe the redress movement that resulted in a formal apology from the U.S. government. He will conclude with the lessons learned that apply to everyone, not just Japanese Americans.

The "Memories of Heart Mountain" program will include rare photographs and video footage. An open discussion will follow the presentation.

Mihara also will present the program at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15, at the Powell library and at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 16, at the Meeteetse School. Following his talk at the school, folks have the opportunity for a field trip from Meeteetse to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. There is a charge for the guided tour.
Japanese Americans were held under armed guard as they boarded trains bound for relocation centers.
Photo courtesy U.C. Berkeley Bancroft Library

When the war ended, Mihara and his family returned home to San Francisco. Mihara earned degrees in engineering from UC Berkeley and UCLA.

He worked as a rocket scientist and executive with The Boeing Company. He currently owns a high-tech consulting firm.

Mihara serves on the board of directors for the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. He is also a member of the Japanese American National Museum and the Japanese American Citizens League.

The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center is located between Powell and Cody at the intersection of U.S. Highway 14A and Road 19. For more information, visit heartmountain.org or call 754-8000.

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