Park County ended up on the short end of a recently settled lawsuit with Vanguard Natural Resources.
Although the county made nearly $357,000 in the settlement in the present, Vanguard will be allowed to forgo paying its 2017 property taxes to the county and is allowed to use that saved money towards paying all of its $1.2 million in 2020 property taxes with Park County, which it was delinquent on paying by about six months. Park County will only receive about 52% of what it’s owed.
“It’s not a great result,” said Barb Poley, Park County treasurer, during the Oct. 5 county commissioner meeting.
That day the commissioners unanimously voted to accept the terms of the settlement and financial disbursements.
The Houston-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2017 after incurring $1.8 billion in debt. By fall of 2017 it had cleared a significant portion of this total and paid its taxes from 2016 business that November.
Vanguard argued, even though the first half of 2017 taxes was paid out after the bankruptcy, that Park and six other Wyoming counties the company sued had to have filed a “proofs of claim” in bankruptcy court by July 2017 in order to have any entitlement to the money.
In April 2019 Vanguard again filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, this time for $1.2 billion in debt.
From Vanguard, Grizzly Energy LLC emerged as a new company out of this second bankruptcy in July 2019.
Park, Sweetwater, Natrona, Campbell, Johnson and Carbon counties were represented by law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP of Dallas. Poley said the county had to hire this out-of-state firm to represent it in proceedings to facilitate hearings through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas that was hearing the case.
Johnson County was paid just over $230,000, about one-third of the taxes owed to the county by the company from 2016-2020.
Vanguard paid the first half of what it owed from the 2017 taxes but never paid the second half. Now, it will be returned the $879,873 it paid and forgiven for the other half.
Under the settlement agreement, Vanguard is to pay these or equal funds towards its 2020 property taxes.
After attorney fees, Park County will end up with only $226,581 remaining to distributed to the tax districts.
The county’s 17 districts, which include entities such as Park County School District #1 and Powell Fire, will owe the county a combined $130,328 for representing them in the lawsuit, a sum that will be taken from the settlement money.
Total disbursments will be determined by how many tax mills they receive and other factors.
Commissioner Dossie Overfield asked Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric whether these entities were given a choice to have the county represent them. Skoric said the county is in charge of managing these situations and if the county hadn’t pursued legal action, these entities would likely be getting “very little” back.
“It would have been an impossibility to get agreements amongst all those people,” he said. “We’re charged with doing it and we are where we are.”