RAWLINS — Rawlins City Council plans to keep funds at Bank of the West after a discussion with its branch manager Tuesday evening.
The members voted 5-1 to keep an estimated $9 million at the bank, with councilperson Linda Smith not present due to conflict of interest. Smith is a local realtor.
Mayor Robert Grauberger, who, on Aug. 21, originally suggested the city move its municipal funds, after the corporation announced to withdraw its own support from oil and gas exploration and tobacco tied companies.
Grauberger was the only person in favor of the move.
Bank of the West Manager Nate Davison, prior to the vote, apologized to council members for any confusion about the company’s statements, saying they had been misinterpreted by media outlets and politicians around the state.
Although the company has shifted its focus to solar and wind energy in order to be a good partner with its parent company, BNP Paribas, it does not oppose such industries. Davidson said BNP simply entered the Paris Climate agreement in 2015 with other countries and companies to reduce the carbon footprint and to keep the global warming lower than 2˚C from pre-industrial aged numbers.
“I believe there is a very stark difference between opposition and choosing to support other things instead,” he said.
Davidson, a native of Carbon Valley, Colo., appreciates the hard work local residents and workers put in everyday and said the company plans to continue its partnership with the energy industry in the changing times.
Unhappy, the company released the statements prior to warning its employers. Davidson added Bank of the West recognized a problem with global warming and that tobacco is not healthy.
“If that is somebody’s means to support their family, it is not our intention to put anybody out of business or out of work,” he said. “At the same time we don’t want to be apart of activities, for example, like Tobacco.”
Bank of the West wants to help promote small businesses, female entrepreneurship and overall health, said Davidson.
Commissioner Steve Nicholson asked several questions to help everyone receive clarification as to how the policies would affect local residents.
Commissioner Steve Sanger, as a result, switched his decision since the company isn’t doing anything different than it has in past years. Sanger added BNP is pretty good about investing their funds and doesn’t want to second-guess the fifth largest bank worldwide.
Although losing the funds would not have sent a significant message to the team to change their position on their recent policy, or made a big impact on the bank’s ability to give loans, it could have started a chain reaction of others withdrawing funds and eventually force the bank to close, Davidson said. He added the company wants to be where they are wanted and that the opposite message would be sent.
Commissioner Louis Espinoza wanted to keep funds at Bank of the West due to its importance and wouldn’t penalize it because of its preferences.