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December 05, 2013 8:54 am

UW spending money on failed employees is revealing and sad

Written by Tom Lawrence

Thumbs down to the University of Wyoming for another embarrassing parting of the ways.

Just two weeks after President Robert Sternberg jumped before he was pushed, UW has dismissed its football coach after a disastrous second half of the season. The two men are no longer university employees, but they’re still getting paid.

Sternberg departed on Nov. 14, but his $425,000 annual salary will be paid through Dec. 31. In addition, he was, for some reason, given a $325,000 parting gift for creating an atmosphere of tension and upheaval.

And, it was revealed, the university is moving ahead on more than $200,000 in repairs and upgrades on the rental home he will be allowed to occupy through May 31.

Coach Dave Christensen, who won 27 games in five years while losing 35, was also shown the door. This year’s squad was off to a promising start before the defense literally collapsed, allowing points at a staggering pace.

Christensen was given the boot a day after the season ended with a 35-7 loss to Utah State. He will be given $570,000 to not coach the team over the next three years.

While UW was quick to point out the money given to Christensen is “non-state dollars,” it is money that could have been spent on a reportedly cash-starved department.

It’s a fact of football life that UW will never be able to recruit a top-notch coach without the guaranteed contract offer. On the somewhat positive note, Christensen’s contract was heavily incentive-laden, and the university only had to honor the base salary.

In other words, it could have been worse.

Still, the total that is being spent on two high-profile, high-dollar former employees is well over $1 million. It appears nothing succeeds like failure on the Laramie campus.

Thumbs up to Powell Valley Healthcare for overcoming difficulties with its NextGen electronic records system.

NextGen was plagued with problems for more than a year, but PVHC Chief Executive Officer Bill Patten told the board last week that it appears the worst is over and the system can and will be retained.

“I think we’ve reached the point where we no longer need to talk about divorce,” Patten said. “We may need some marriage counseling, but I think we can make it work.”

We’re glad to see some good news for PVHC. It’s had to endure some rocky times of late, so this was a bright spot as the year nears its end.

Thumbs down to the continued commercialization of Thanksgiving.

What was once a holiday dedicated to giving thanks for what we have, and cherishing time with family, food and football has become another chance for people to crowd into stores and buy, buy, buy. The reports and videos of brawls over flat-screen TVs and other items at retailers across the country only adds to the depressing scenario.

One remedy was a stop at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Powell a week ago today. The Multipurpose Building at the Park County Fairgrounds was packed, and the people we saw there had big smiles on their faces as they ate, talked and enjoyed the holiday for what it once stood for, and should again. In total, 425 meals were served there or delivered to people’s homes.

They inspired us. We hope others get the message and refrain from rushing out for bargains when the real treasures await them at home and with friends.

Thumbs up to the emergency responders, dispatchers, police officers, hospital workers and others who go to work on Thanksgiving and other holidays because they are needed.

While most of us relax at home and enjoy turkey and the trimmings, they put in their regular shifts. We think of these folks on holidays, and offer them a silent thanks.

Here’s a more public one that they well deserve.

Thumbs up to Pope Francis for reminding the faithful that their religion calls for caring for those most in need.

Last week, the pope released “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), which states that elements of modern capitalism have harmed people. Francis, who assumed the papacy this summer after years of serving the poor in Argentina, wants to make it clear to the 1.5 billion Catholics in the world of the dangers of the “idolatry of money,” which he noted can create a “new tyranny.”

Pope Francis said he is also no fan of  “trickle-down economics,” which he said “expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

Some critics have labeled Francis a “Marxist” or a “communist” for his statements. They sound like unvarnished Christianity to us.

Remember the parable of the rich man, the camel and the eye of the needle? Pope Francis certainly does.

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