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Wyoming digest

Jun 30, 2014 The Associated Press

Third trial ordered for fake car dealer

OMAHA, Neb. -- The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday again ordered a new trial for a Wyoming man accused of posing as a licensed car dealer. Thomas Merchant, 54, of Cheyenne, has twice been convicted of being an unlicensed dealer. Prosecutors said Merchant bought 19 vehicles from the Nebraska Auto Auction in June 2011, and according to the business, the checks Merchant wrote for the vehicles bounced and a fake dealer's license number on paperwork also indicated Merchant was a "wholesale" dealer.

The state's high court threw out Merchant's first conviction.

Merchant was again tried and convicted and sentenced in September to 12 to 26 years in prison.

But on Friday, the Nebraska high court vacated his second conviction, citing its own faulty jury instruction.

Consultant hired on state education

The Wyoming Legislature has hired a consultant to recommend if and how the state should modify education governance. The Joint Education Committee hired Maryland-based educational consultants Cross and Joftus. The firm will be paid $98,500 between June and March to interview representatives from several statewide educational agencies including the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Board of Education.

The firm will review how those agencies operate and will issue its recommendations by October.

The study comes after recent failed efforts to remove Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, as well efforts in the Legislature to eliminate her elected position.

Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, said at a meeting Thursday the consultant's work is "not another witch hunt," referring to criticism that the state's ongoing inquiry on the department is a personal vendetta against Hill, who was stripped of her powers of office by the Legislature before a court ruling determined that the law doing so was unconstitutional. Hill has been reinstated and now is running for governor.

No change in state rig count

HOUSTON -- Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose by 15 this week to 1,873. The Houston firm said in its weekly report Friday that 1,558 rigs were exploring for oil and 314 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,748 active rigs. Wyoming's rig count was unchanged for the week. It has been climbing for the past several weeks.

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