Mayor, Police Chief Criticized Over Cheyenne Frontier Days Liquor Permit, Security

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A statue on the grounds of the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne with the newly rebuilt Herschler Building in the background. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Originally reported by Ellen Fike – Oil City News

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The arguments over whether or not the Cheyenne Frontier Days officials should contribute to security costs continued during the Wyoming Senate’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20.

Discussion began Tuesday, Feb. 18 over SF 134, which would provide a malt beverage license to Cheyenne Frontier Days. This would mean that during the 10-day stretch of CFD, guests could purchase drinks such as wine coolers or other malt liquor beverages on Frontier Park grounds. The permit would cost $100. Crook County Sen. Ogden Driskill explained during the bill’s introduction that it would be similar to bills created to provide malt beverage licenses to the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming State Fair.

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The tensions between the City of Cheyenne and CFD began to rise last year, when CFD officials met with Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr and Cheyenne Police Department Chief Brian Kozak. Earlier this week, Orr noted her frustration with CFD not contributing toward the massive payments for security reinforcements. She’d proposed ideas such as a 50-cent tax on tickets to help contribute, but when those requests fell on deaf ears, she came up with another tactic.

Orr and Kozak asked that CFD officials pay $100,000 in exchange for their malt liquor license last year, at which the latter group balked. Orr pointed out in Thursday’s meeting that the city doesn’t only provide security for CFD, but also sanitation for the parades, traffic control and other services downtown during the busy month of July.

CFD lobbyist Pat Crank quoted Ben Parker from the “Spider-Man” comics to make his point to the Senate committee on Thursday.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” he said during his testimony alongside CFD CEO Tom Hirsig. “But unfortunately, the mayor and the police chief haven’t acted responsibly.”

HIrsig and Crank said during their Tuesday and Thursday testimonies that they would be happy to negotiate with the city about a cost-sharing program to help pay for security, but they both felt the liquor license shouldn’t be involved in the discussion.

Crank noted that discussions this year haven’t gone well, with the city asking for nearly $200,000 for this year’s CFD. However, the senators on the committee noted that the two parties would have to figure out some type of compromise.

Cheyenne City Councilman Rocky Case testified before the committee on Thursday, telling the senators that he supported the bill, adding that he felt the city council should be involved in the discussions with Orr, Kozak and the CFD officials.

“Previous councils have given the mayor and police chief significant leeway to charge whatever they want when dealing with a situation like this, but I don’t think the council’s former members ever quite expected a situation like this,” he said. “I hope the committee, Senate and House approve this bill and allow us to continue negotiating.”

Thursday’s meeting wrapped up in less than half an hour. The five senators on the committee unanimously voted to send the bill back to the Wyoming Senate to be placed on the general file, which will likely occur next week due to prolonged budget discussions.