CHEYENNE, — A judge is expected to hear arguments by two university foundations seeking to dismiss a lawsuit that has held up plans to sell a vast, donated ranch
The hearing is set for Tuesday in Cheyenne before Laramie County District Judge Thomas Campbell.
Attorneys for the University of Wyoming Foundation and Colorado State University Research Foundation wrote that Denver philanthropist Amy Davis doesn’t have standing to sue over how the two schools use the Y Cross Ranch after Davis donated it to the foundations 15 years ago.
“The majority of cases from other jurisdictions hold that a donor does not have standing to enforce a gift,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys, who include former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan, wrote in the dismissal request filed Oct. 22.
Attorneys for Davis wrote in a Nov. 13 response that Davis’ gift agreement is a contract that she has a right to enforce.
Davis donated the Y Cross in 1997, at least in part so the ranch could be a place for hands-on teaching of agriculture. The cattle ranch sprawls across 50,000 acres of grasslands, forests, meadows and granite outcrops between Cheyenne and Laramie.
The gift agreement allowed the foundations to sell the ranch after 14 years. The foundations announced the sale plan last year.
University officials explained that the working ranch wasn’t a good place for field teaching, and that sale proceeds would honor the intent of Davis’ gift by funding education scholarships. The sale had been scheduled to take place by sealed bid in Cheyenne this month.
Davis sued in September, saying the foundations hadn’t done enough to honor her intent that the ranch be used for teaching. Her lawsuit seeks to rescind the gift agreement and establish a trust to use the ranch as she intended.
Soon after the lawsuit was filed, the foundations postponed selling the Y Cross until the lawsuit can be resolved.
Attorneys for the foundations argue that Campbell should dismiss the case because Davis relinquished all rights to the Y Cross when she gave the gift.
Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips, not Davis, is responsible for ensuring that the public trust is honored after such gifts are made to nonprofit entities such as the university foundations, the lawyers state.
Davis’ attorneys, Steve Miller and former Wyoming Attorney General Gay Woodhouse, responded by refiling the lawsuit with Phillips added as a defendant “out of an abundance of caution.” Even so, they argued that Phillips shouldn’t be involved.
Miller and Woodhouse also argued that Davis did not fully relinquish oversight of the Y Cross. The foundations kept Davis and her Courtenay C. Davis Foundation involved in Y Cross management in part by reporting the Y Cross finances to them annually, they wrote.