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Riverton taking the lead on formation of multi-community panel to improve ties

May 29, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness received tentative support for a "citizens human relations committee" from other local government leaders. He said leaders from the Northern Arapaho Tribe also were supportive.

Warpness's vision is to have a group of representatives from the municipalities in Fremont County, the Fremont County Commissioners, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe tribes and two at-large members. The committee would listen to and evaluate complaints of alleged discrimination and issue complaints to authorities and perpetrators, but it would have no "binding power."

"We need to figure out some way to communicate and address these issues that are not things the sheriff is going to be concerned about," Warpness said at a meeting of the Fremont County Association of Governments on May 9.

Warpness said he met with leaders of the Northern Arapaho Tribe on May 13, and they were supportive.

Bar fight

The idea came about after a recent bar fight, Warpness said.

At about 1:20 a.m. March 9, James Edward Crooks, 24, of Hudson, is alleged to have punched Darryn Davis, 24, of Riverton, in the face in front of Bomber's Sports Bar, knocking him down.

Crooks left the scene before police arrived. Davis was found "lying supine" at the location and needed emergency transportation to Wyoming Medical Center in Casper.

Medical records indicate he suffered bleeding inside of his skull and a fractured eye socket. Davis, who is of African American and American Indian heritage, later told Riverton police that Crooks had uttered a racial slur before hitting him in the face, according to law enforcement reports.

'Some serious teeth'

Warpness said the idea for a committee came from resident Waylon Oldman, who proposed creating a human rights commission for Riverton.

"To me, a commission is something that had some serious teeth in it," Warpness said.

Warpness said the Northern Arapaho leaders thought the group should have more authority than he envisioned.

Warpness also expanded the scope to include the whole county and not just Riverton, because his city is not the only problem area, he said.

He also said discrimination is on "both sides," referring to white and American Indian communities.

"I think if we let things go the way they are, they're only going to get worse," Lander Mayor Mick Wolfe said. "If we don't try and do something, we're remiss in our duties."

FCAG to consider

Pavillion Mayor Gary Hamlin said such a committee would help by getting people talking.

Warpness said he hopes to receive letters of support from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone business councils, he said.

The issue also will be on the agenda of the June FCAG meeting.

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