DAILY NEWS photo by Susan Lockhart
Hot Springs County Fair FFA Grand Champion Showman Harley Rhodes and Reserve Champion Jessie Pennoyer listen as judge Kaylee Kerbs talks about their showmanship skills during Wednesday afternoon’s Sheep Show in Thermopolis.
Group organizes ‘Meet the Candidates’ event
for Aug. 7 at Worland Community Complex
By Jeanette Johnson
WORLAND – Local and state candidates have indicated they will
participate in the Meet the Candidate Night at the Worland
Community Complex Center on Thursday, Aug. 7 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The event in the conference room is sponsored by the Worland Business & Professional Women’s Organization to give voters the opportunity to hear what the incumbents and challengers have to offer.
So far, 19 state and local candidates have responded to the invitation to attend and face questions from the public, moderator Wendy Sweeny said.
Members of the One-Cent Tax Committee will also be there to explain the resolution on the November ballot.
Each candidate will have an allotted time to address the audience. No letters from the candidates who send representatives will be permitted.
“If the candidate doesn’t show up, we’re not reading it,” Sweeny said.
Each candidate in the same race will be allowed to answer the question presented.
“I hope the public comes out full force to ask questions and learn more about the candidates so they can make a more informed decision at the polls on August 19,” Sweeny said.
Worland City Council candidate Glenn Robertson is the only one in the city’s nonpartisan race who has accepted the invitation, Sweeny said.
Pete Gosar, who is running for governor on the Democratic ticket, Bill Winney, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, and state auditor incumbent Cynthia Cloud will attend.
At the local level, voters can hear from Rep. Mike Greear, R27, and the five men running for two seats for Washakie County Commissioner – incumbents Ron Harvey and Terry Wolf and challengers Randall Adams, Jim Butterfield and Dale Wagner. Washakie County Attorney incumbent Marcy Argeris and challenger John Worrall will meet in a public forum for the second time in two weeks.
Washakie County Clerk Mary Grace Strauch, County Assessor Kathy Treanor and County Treasurer Doris Kern, who are running unopposed for their respective offices, will also be available to talk to the public.
State incumbents who are sending their representatives to speak on their behalf include Senator Mike Enzi, Representative Cynthia Lummis and Governor Matt Mead. Challengers sending spokespersons are Ed Buchanan who’s running for Secretary of State and Mike Ceballas, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
VA wants to fire 2 employees
accused of manipulating data
By Trevor Brown
CHEYENNE – Federal officials are withholding information, at least
for now, on what punishments they are recommending for top
administrators at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday that it hopes to bring disciplinary actions against six supervisors at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center and the Fort Collins (Colorado) Community-Based Outpatient Clinic.
They are accused of manipulating data, instructing subordinates to manipulate data and withholding accurate information from their superiors.
The charges are related to revelations that veterans across the country were having their appointment records falsified in order to meet a requirement that veterans be seen within 14 days of making an appointment.
VA spokesman Paul Sherbo confirmed Wednesday that three of the employees in question are: VA Medical Center Director Cynthia McCormack; her chief of staff, Jerry Zang; and Rocky Mountain Network Director Ralph Gigliotti, who oversees VA facilities throughout the region.
But Sherbo said he had no information when asked about the names or positions of the other three employees.
The department also is not disclosing what punishments it is seeking for each of the six employees except to say it is proposing to fire two of them and to suspend, demote and/or admonish the rest.
VA officials did not give a reason for not releasing that information. They also did not give a time when it would be publicly available.
The department says it is proposing the punishments in the wake of a VA Inspector General review, internal investigations and information provided by whistleblowers.
“Employees who have been found to have manipulated data, withheld accurate information from their supervisors and affected the timeliness of care veterans receive do not reflect VA’s values, and their actions will not be tolerated,” acting VA Secretary Sloan D. Gibson said in a statement Tuesday.
“VA must earn back the trust of veterans. Part of earning back that trust is holding people accountable when there is documented evidence of willful misconduct and management negligence.”
Cheyenne’s VA Medical Center was among those flagged by a recent audit as needing further review amid the revelation that veterans across the country were having their appointment records falsified in order to meet the 14-day limit.
The allegations sprang up in May when a nurse at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center was put on administrative leave when an email from him directing another staffer to game the appointments system was made public.
The email, dated June 19, 2013, describes a technique used to falsify appointment dates in order to comply with the VA’s directive to schedule all appointments within a 14-day window.
“Yes, it is gaming the system a bit,” the email stated. “But you have to know the rules of the game you are playing, and when we exceed the 14-day measure, the front office gets very upset, which doesn’t help us.”
The revelations about the scheduling controversy here and at other VA facilities eventually led Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down from his position.
It also has spurred a bill, passed by the U.S. House on Wednesday, that seeks to reform the department.
The legislation would provide $10 billion to allow veterans to get medical care at non-VA facilities if they cannot get timely appointments.
It also provides more oversight requirements and would let the VA more easily fire or demote administrators for poor performance and misconduct.
“This is an honest solution to an urgent problem,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, in a statement Wednesday.
He is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“(It is a solution) that is focused on making government more accountable and providing veterans with real choice in their health care decisions,” Miller added.
The bill will now advance to the U.S. Senate.
Miller also has been a critic of the VA’s inability to release information to the public in a timely manner.
In March he began the “VA Honesty project” – a website that records dozens of instances when the VA ignores or refuses media inquiries from across the country.
“With 54 full-time public affairs employees, VA’s media avoidance strategy can’t be anything other than intentional,” Miller said in a statement when he started the project.
“What’s worse, the tactic leaves the impression that department leaders think the same taxpayers who fund the department don’t deserve an explanation of VA’s conduct.”
Continued in today's issue of the DAILY NEWS. Subscribe here
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