The University of Wyoming Foundation recently sold the Y Cross ranch, a property gifted by Amy Davis and the Courtenay C. Davis Foundation in 1997 to provide students with an educational ranching experience and money for scholarships.

For years interested citizens have requested to see the original 1997 agreement between Amy Davis, the UW Foundation, and the Colorado State University Foundation. The document spelled out the terms for transferring ownership of the ranch LLC from the Davis family to the two foundations, and the conditions under which the ranch could be sold.

In 2011 the two university foundations moved to sell the ranch, and Davis filed a lawsuit protesting the sale. The case went all the way to the Wyoming Supreme Court, which ruled that Davis had no standing to sue because she was no longer an owner of the LLC.

The University of Wyoming Foundation has declined to make the original 1997 agreement public, citing donor confidentiality. However, as mentioned in UW Foundation board member Frank Mendicino’s recent column published in WyoFile, the document is publicly available through the Laramie County Clerk of District Court.

WyoFile obtained the document through the clerk, and paid an $18 fee to access the record, which appears below.

Y Cross ranch memorandum of understanding

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  1. The MOU certainly contemplated (in 1997) a potential sale of the property (which happened in August 2015) per Article X of the agreement. However, did either UW or CSU attempt to buy out the other as contemplated by paragraph B of Article X?

    Reading the news stories, social media comments, the MOU, etc. it just seems that there never really was an intent to operate the ranch as the donor wanted past the end of Phase 2 (14 years). This is an unfortunate commentary for both CSU and UW, both land-grant universities with proud and lengthy legacies (and responsibilities / obligations) in agriculture. If a gem of a property, close to both campuses (especially UW) like the Y Cross can’t help to further the missions of the respective universities’ colleges of agriculture, it’s hard to envision a ranch that would do it better.

    This episode is likely to resonate in potential donors’ minds for years to come. Yes the sale proceeds will fund lots of scholarships and faculty research, but WHERE will these activities take place? I fear that both UW and CSU agriculture programs will have a chilly reception from their respective farming and ranching communities after this episode. CSU is a much bigger university with a corresponding larger alumni community and probably will get “lost in the noise”, so to speak…with UW, it’s a different story. After all, UW’s mascot and fight song is “Cowboy Joe”, right?

    If UW was gifted an oilfield or coal mine, with similar missions to “…provide a real-world working laboratory for observation and study…” would there be an intent to sell that asset as well?

    Jeff Hansen

  2. Not only was there a 14th year provision, but a 24th year provision. See provision 10(C). But, is some “operation” agreement one that is secret, still? The Y -Cross was not set up as a “dude” Ranch.
    Why Mr Jackson claims Mr O’Toole hurt his institution, is curious. Mr Jackson never offered up $ 25 million( or share % amounts) to the benefit of the U of Wyoming. Is Washburn(in Kansas) even a land Grant University? Certainly, the U of Wyoming is a 3rd party beneficiary in the arrangements set up, it is not the private affairs of some in Mr McGinity’s office, and is Mr Jackson misdescribing aspects of what went on?

    Jim Hagood

  3. Instead of addressing issues, Mr Jackson seems to attack Mr O’Toole. Jackson is not even a grad of the U of Wyo law school. Can a grad of Washburn law school even address the exclusion provisions? Mr Jackson can form what ever beliefs he opts to, but there seems to be no solid basis for his attacks on Mr O’Toole that he sadly ” hurts his own institution”, the University of Wyoming. That shows he is not up on appreciating asset issues on ranch values in Wyoming. But, it is curious on his suggestion to call Mr McGinity, and laying the “calls” on Y-Cross at Mr Ginity’s desk. Washburn law school never had a higher ABA rating than the U of Wyo law school. Never. But, is that a red herring, after all who ran some degrading game back in 2013 for some agenda? If the matter was a totally private transaction it is curious, how the MOA was filed in the County Clerk’s office, and how some for weeks were misleading people that the MOA was essentially not public, and of a secret nature. If the law grad of a Kansas institution wants to pander to McGinity he can do so, but he just created many more issues.
    Jim Hagood

  4. From the Nov 9, 201 Natrona Casper Star Tribune:

    “Shortly after moving to Wyoming, Sternberg began traveling around the state and meeting with people. He began to hear critiques of the law school.

    “I know you want me to be straight and I’ll be straight,” he said, explaining that people told him that UW’s law school used to be top in the country in energy, natural resources, water and environmental law.

    “Some people said we are not at the top,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s true.”

    The task force will look at that, he said.

    Students bristled over the task force, worried that the end result could be an emphasis on energy and environmental law at the expense of other types of law.”

    Who is to judge on tops rankings, relative standing, etc, a solid analysis?

    Y Cross used to be a top cattle operation, when run by Courtenay Davis. Mr Davis was a law grad of Northwestern Law School in Chicago, and one of the world’s foremost experts on cattle pricing and antitrust law. So, what does Washburn Law grad, Ben, have to say on the exclusion provisions, see MOA, given, how things evolved. When Sternberg went to some UW Law School bash in July of 2013, he noted his mom always wanted him to go to law school, and he got a big ribbing from Steve Easton.(then UW Law Dean). It is ironic, what then unfolded, with McGinity stepping into the breach, as now Ben is pointing to McGinity in his pointed remarks to Mr O’Toole. Wyoming Law School had Dean Trelease, once who was the undisputed leading expert in the USA on water law, he was even giving a tribute in many law journals as the Dean of all Dean’s on water law. However, times change, and schools, evolve into different nitches.
    I was at U of Wyo Law School when Frank Trelease was the Dean of the Law School. does that mean, that U of WYO slipped under the Deanship of Steve Easton? That is not entirely for me to say, others can address that if they opt to. Sternberg headed out of Wyoming after he created the dustup, and some want a hush hush on the matters. If they are any hot shot attorneys who read WYOFILE, what is their 2 cents on the exclusion provisions, see MOA. WYOFILE popped up the MOA, Ben sure gave his 2 cents.

    Jim Hagood

  5. Ben, certainly has the option to say he is a supporter of U of WYO. But, he was not a grad of the U of WYO law school, This is not to dish Washburn Law school in Kansas. Regardless, did Ben read carefully the clauses on exclusion, not just on the “saddle” but other matters. I can confess to being a Jay Hawk basketball fan, too. As Ben may know in Wyo, the surface and mineral estate are often split out. If Ben wants to explain why things often don’t work out when CSU is in the picture, have at it.
    However, 14 years was a key point stuck in the MOA. Why? Was that driven by tax factors? Did Ben ignore who signed the MOA for UWF? As to Ben’s suggestion to call the President, Mr McGINITY, is he saying . the buck stops with McGinity. He is on his way out, did he read the MOA and the exclusions provisions, where is Amy Davis’s saddle now?

    Jim Hagood

  6. Did any closely read provision VIII B on excluded assets? Underscore excluded,
    See on the oil and gas and mineral interests, and the saddle of Amy DAVIS.(subject provision).
    Thankfully, Ms Davis never gave U of Wyo(UWF) her “saddle”
    Also, did any read closely the concern expressed in the MOA that U of WYO(UWF) was a organization that met IRS muster. Obviously, the vision that Amy Davis had was one that never survived after the 14th year, in terms of what she set forth(in 1997), and signed on to on August 25, 1997. The dissolution provisions are vague in some areas, and, there is nothing in the entire agreement that notes it is the power of the the President of UW, which in 2015 was Mr McGinity, as to making the BIG “call”. Isn’t McGinity a dude rancher? Underscore “dude”. That is an interesting point of Mr Ben Jackson, on who makes the BIG call: Mr McGinity.
    No one disputes the world is complicated. The ranch – was it like the crown jewel of UFW(was until it was taken off the books), how many assets does UWF have that exceed $ 24 million, that were appreciating assets. At least, Mr McGinity was not given the power to dispose of Amy Davis’s saddle, or one who grabbed that power. If the world was not complicated, then trillions would not have been zeroed out as to many many people and institutions who got fleeced on mortgaged backed securities.( 2008 melt downs by the assorted Wall Street wonders). Also, an interesting point is raised on the role of UWF to raise funds. However, UWF took on a management role. (as to an asset). See the full agreement.
    If the world was not complex, the EX CEO of H.P. would not have been fired for driving that company into the ground, while firing 30,000 workers.(then taking a $ 100 million golden parachute). If the world was not complex, the EX CEO of Ford would not have led President (JFK) into the jungles of Viet Nam, then headed off to the WORLD BANK, to then be haunted for the rest of his life on his bad judgements. If the world was not complicated, then would Steve Easton still be Dean of UW law. Recall, Mr McGinity is on tape, in those U-TUBE videos gushing forth: “point of order”.
    Just one clarification, it was me(JIM) , who noted the MOA was a public document, on file at the Laramie County Clerk’s Office, No big deal, but some were stressing things are secret, not to be disclosed. See on the other section, subsection on the Y Cross Ranch.

    Jim Hagood

  7. Mr. O’Toole

    I have watched this story you have spun unfold and find it particularly distasteful how your thesis seems to be based on conspiracy theorizing and innuendo, and when those don’t work, personal attacks on individuals. I admit I am a supporter of the University of Wyoming, and that some are disappointed with the outcome here. It appears though that you do little more than try to dig up a story where one is not to be found. Is this a complicated transaction? Yes – but you would portray it as something far more sinister. It is unclear what your motives are for that but they seem quite personal in the way you have pursued them. A few things to consider, which you seem to ignore. First, the UW Foundation is a fundraising arm of the University of Wyoming. You would portray them as puppet-masters in this saga you have spun, but to be honest there are at least two other major players here you seem to ignore who make decisions at the University and the College of Ag regarding assets they own or that have been left to them in estates – the President of the University and the Dean of the Agriculture College. This sale and the decision to proceed with it would never have happened without their approval. They make the final call on such decisions, not the Foundation. Why are you not questioning their motives or making personal attacks on Presidents Buchanan (and in the last year, President McGinity) or Dean Galey? The Foundation then pursues gifts in partnership with the University, they do not decide their fate. Secondly, there was never any groundswell on campus to use the facility. Thirdly, there are other ranches that have been gifted to the College of Ag – why are you not pursuing those to see if programs can occur on them? Maybe this was a good idea but this was the wrong place to do it.

    As others have pointed out, this was always going to be a very complicated transaction. If you read Mr. Mendicino’s comments and others throughout the time of the gift you see that several entities had to come to agreement to make this work. It appears none could. If that was UW’s fault you likely need to call the President on it as the final decisions rest with him. UW’s Foundation only pointed out how a illiquid asset, one that potentially created a resource liability to the institution and that could be made into one that provided far greater benefit with the sale. CSU seems to have also wanted to sell the asset. Agreements are made but sometimes dreams don’t work out.

    I don’t have the answers to all the details here, nor should I. This was a private transaction. I do believe, however, that officials at the University including the foundation are dedicated to doing the best they can for their institution. You seem to ignore facts, and that the world is complicated to pursue an agenda of your own. Sadly you hurt your own institution for doing so. You are certainly not helping it.

    Ben Jackson

  8. Donating money or assets, to any entity, is far trickier than it seems, and, as Charity Navigator will confirm, the bulk of your money does not always go for the cause that has been used to solicit it. However, when it comes to the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University, these two universities, to my knowledge, have never cooperated or joined forces to implement any program or share resources. In itself, with such a major program involved, that would have been a stretch. Also, to design such a program and put it into play, as well as to supervise the boards and managers Mrs. Davis set up would have been problematic, especially with two universities involved. I think, however, that they accepted the deal Mrs. Davis offered knowing they could sell the ranch after she died. In itself that was dishonest. Those who want to give money or assets to a University should give it directly to a program or a department, never to a the Foundation. Even then there is no guarantee that your wishes will be honored after your death.

    Vicki Lindner

  9. Thank you, WyoFile, for posting this. It is important for readers to understand what the late Ms. Davis intended, versus what the UW Foundation claimed was her purpose.

    The ranch is now sold. The Foundation got ‘its’ money. The facts are now largely of historical interest, and an illustration of the inner workings of the UWF Teachers at UW and CSU, and their students, were denied a chance to use the ranch as a laboratory for animal-plant systems. What the document makes clear is that the Y Cross was NOT meant solely as a profit center. Yet that is the way it was spun for the 18 years it was held by the foundation. Until such time as the depreciation schedule is published, some of the other claims – that the ranch ran at a loss – cannot be fact-checked. Throughout this sorry saga, the UWF spun the situation to make it appear that its hands were clean. The ranch – whose headquarters was 25 miles from the UW campus via 9th Street, was ‘too far away’. Frank Mendicino, for the foundation, professed bafflement that Ms. Davis, the donor, would bring the UWF to court – as if Ms. Davis, as she was dying, was too daft to realize that the foundation was determined to undermine the primary purpose of her gift.

    There are lessons here. Don’t assume the foundation will carry out your wishes, if you make a donation. Never donate land or other assets in kind to the foundation, if there a loophole for the foundation to flip it for cash. I’ve learned that, when millions of dollars are a play, the last thing one should do is trust the spokesman for a university charity who says: ‘Just trust us here’.

    Again, thank you WyoFile for covering the story.

    Donal O’Toole