Natrona County Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit With Former Alcova Manager
The Natrona County Commission and the former Alcova reservoir manager have settled a federal lawsuit he brought claiming the county's Road and Bridge Department submitted bogus grant proposals to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
"Natrona County Board of County Commissioners announces the settlement of the above styled lawsuit for the sum of $8,500," according to a prepared statement issued Thursday.
The case involving Charlie Loraas, the U.S. Government as a co-plaintiff and the county was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson on April 1.
Loraas was the superintendent of the reservoir from March 1989 to March 2011
In the lawsuit filed in October 2013, Loraas claimed the Road and Bridge Department filed false financial reports to Reclamation about Alcova, Pathfinder and Gray Reef reservoirs amounting to more than $1 million for grants and projects: “While creating the appearance that it was operating the Reservoirs at a loss, the County has for the most part actually operated the Reservoirs at a profit and has diverted those profits to county uses other than Reservoir maintenance and operation.”
The bureau owns the reservoirs and the immediate surrounding shorelines where thousands of fun-seekers camp, swim, picnic, rent cabin and trailer spaces, rent boat slips, and shop, drink and eat at the marinas. The bureau has an agreement that the county can charge fees for these amenities and use those revenues solely to make improvements at the reservoirs.
But Loraas claimed the Road and Bridge Department did not adhere to the agreement and falsified records, obtained grants from the bureau that in effect had the federal government pay twice for the same work and equipment, and did not repay misappropriated funds.
The county, through its attorney Scott Klosterman, denied the allegations.
On Thursday, the county said, "The BOCC is of the opinion that the claims of the lawsuit are meritless and a favorable outcome for Natrona County would have been obtained if this issue proceeded through litigation.
"However, the payment of this amount constitutes a prudent use of taxpayer funds to bring closure to this issue.The cost of litigation, including County employee time and attorney's fees, would have greatly exceeded this amount."
Loraas did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
This story will be updated.