WHOA! Treasurer back-peddles on severing ties with Bank of the West

County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger as he left a county commissioners meeting. File Photo h/t Ernie Over

(Lander, Wyo.) – There was a significant amount of back-peddling by the county treasurer Tuesday morning at the Fremont County Commissioners meeting on the topic of severing ties with the Bank of the West.

The California-based bank announced last week that they would no longer “engage in business with companies who are involved in the exploration, production, and distribution of coal, oil, and natural gas.”

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In an email sent to the commissioners and to County10.com last Friday, Scott Harnsberger said he was concerned that the Bank was not supporting an industry significant to the economy of Fremont County. ““Although I am very satisfied with our relationship with Bank of the West, I would rather support a business that will invest in activities that support the economy in Wyoming and particularly Fremont County,” he wrote.

As a result of that email, four of the commissioners initially said they would support changing banks.

However on Tuesday, the treasurer apologized to the commission for the email. “I’m sorry I didn’t let you know the press was copied on the email, my intent was to be transparent and I’m now accused of not being transparent,” he said. Harnsberger then said his office would continue its relationship with the bank.

“There is a huge amount of work to change our bank, it involves a Request for Proposals (RFP) issuance and review. Additionally, last January you passed a resolution declaring all banks as county depositories. It is then left up to me to where we provide banking services. Ten years ago we put out a RFP process and it was determined Bank of the West was the way to go. Changing now would be so much work and effort and I’ve decided to stay with Bank of the West.”

Harnsberger also said that since there would be a new county treasurer taking office next January, “they may have a different idea. So, this is just in the talking stages. I’m sorry for not letting you know in advance about sharing the email.”

Chairman Travis Becker thanked the treasurer for “starting the conversation.” He also noted that the commission “does not control what you are doing, you are in control where you deposit those funds.” Becker also said he had no problem that the issue had been reported on County10.com and that he stood by his comments.

County Clerk Julie Freese said she had been considering a change in the county’s credit card issuer anyway, “to one better suited to what we do.” She said a transition from one card to another is not that difficult, it just takes a little time.” Becker suggested the clerk report back to the commission in September after having communicated with other banks about their credit card opportunities.

Read the initial report on the email here.

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