County to enter lawsuit

Sweetwater County will join other Wyoming and Utah counties in a class-action lawsuit against the Federal Government to recover money owned under the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act.

During the Sweetwater County Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning, the Commissioners voted unanimously to approve entering into the class-action lawsuit. Chairman Reid West was absent.

In the original case, Kane County, Utah, vs. the United States, Kane County claimed the government should have to pay the money owed when the government underpaid the PILT funds in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The court agreed with Kane County.

According to documents in the Commissioners packet, “the lawsuit seeks to recover monies that the court has determined that the federal government owes each class member for the underpayment of its respective PILT Act entitlement in fiscal years, 2015, 2016 and/or 2017. To obtain the money that the federal government owes you, without having to file your own lawsuit, you must submit a class-action opt-in notice form....” This form is available online and must be completed by Sept. 14.

According to county treasurer Robb Slaughter, in 2015 and 2016, the federal government failed to pay the full PILT funding amounts. Kane County in Utah took the matter to court and won its lawsuit.

Because of that victory, 1,600 other counties, including Sweetwater County, that didn’t receive the full amount of funding are being asked to join the lawsuit to receive full funding.

Kane County will keep 33 percent of all the money received since it started the lawsuit.

A total of $16 million was owed to various counties. Sweetwater County’s portion is roughly $130,000. With 33 percent calculated out, the county should receive about $86,000, Slaughter estimated.

He said the county could sue on its own, but he didn’t see the point. By the time legal fees and everything was entered in, they would probably lose money.

County deputy attorney James Schermetlzer said the federal government argued the PILT act sets up a formula that they shall pay, however the court declared it must pay. As for the 2017 amount, Schermetlzer said some counties are owed money for that year, while others are not. While he didn’t have exact numbers on how many of Wyoming’s 23 counties were going to opt into the lawsuit, he said he did have a list and there were quite a few on it.

“I feel it’s our obligation to go after this money,” Commissioner John Kolb said.


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