UPDATED: Wyo schools chief Hill vows to return to work after Wyoming Supreme Court victory

2014-01-28T15:00:00Z 2014-01-28T17:42:15Z UPDATED: Wyo schools chief Hill vows to return to work after Wyoming Supreme Court victoryBy LEAH TODD Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online
January 28, 2014 3:00 pm  • 

3 p.m. update: State schools chief Cindy Hill said Tuesday she will return to work at the Wyoming Department of Education following a Wyoming Supreme Court decision saying the law that stripped her of much of her power last year was unconstitutional.

Hill's comments came during a news conference in Cheyenne Tuesday afternoon.

She said the passage of Senate File 104 -- the bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead that stripped her of many of her duties last year -- was a "misguided and unfortunate mistake." 

"But now it is time to return to work and focus on the children of Wyoming," Hill said. "I will be returning to the Department of Education and will be resuming my constitutional and statutory duties."

She added she is looking forward to working with the Department of Education staff, Mead and the Legislature.

Hill cut short the conference to travel to a meeting in Wheatland and left her staff members to answer questions.

John Masters, Hill's legal counsel, said the staff developed a transition plan in anticipation of the ruling.

The first step, he said, is to establish a relationship with the governor's office and create a transition team involving the attorney general's office and other state agencies that work with the superintendent and the Department of Education.

It will be the governor's task to deal with the current department director, Richard Crandall, Masters said.

"I don't see a role for a director," Masters said. "A director was part of SF 104."

A second step is to meet with the department staff "and assuring the staff that we're interested in getting the work done," he said.

Only a few of the 140 department employees complained about Hill's management, he said, and failed to use the grievance process to get the complaints resolved.

Masters said that House legislative leaders would have to answer the question of what effect, if any, the Supreme Court ruling will have on their special investigation of the claims of wrongdoing against Hill that could lead to her impeachment.

Select investigative committee chairman and state Speaker of the House Rep. Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, declined to comment Tuesday.

The Supreme Court's decision is not immediately effective, Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael said in an email to the Star-Tribune. The next step will be to wait until the district court issues an order. 

Gov. Matt Mead said in a release he has asked Michael to provide an analysis of the legal and practical implications of the decision.

"We understand there will be no changes in the current structure at the Department of Education until the District Court has officially received the Supreme Court decision and further proceedings occur," Mead said. "The Attorney General will evaluate the opinion and provide options.”



Original update: The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled today a law that stripped state schools chief Cindy Hill of much of her power last year is unconstitutional.

The justices ruled 3-2 in favor of Hill, who filed suit against the state four days after the Legislature passed Senate File 104 last year.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court said the Wyoming Constitution does not give the Legislature unlimited authority to prescribe the powers and duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, an office Hill won in 2010. Lawmakers must ensure the superintendent has “general supervision of the public schools,” as the constitution provides, according to the opinion.

The judicial majority found Senate File 104 “impermissibly” gave the power of school supervision to Richard Crandall, a governor-appointed director of the Wyoming Department of Education who started in August.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to district court to enter an order consistent with their opinion. Hill’s case was originally filed in Laramie County District Court.

Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, one of the co-authors of Senate File 104, said he had not seen the decision and could not comment Tuesday morning.

Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, issued a press release Tuesday saying he was "relieved" to see the Supreme Court rule in Hill's favor.

"I argued at length on the House Floor that the superintendent of public instruction had the 'general supervision of the public schools' as stated by the Wyoming Constitution, and any change had to come from the people through a constitutional amendment and not through legislative fiat," Gingery said in the release.

A dissenting opinion written by two of the five Wyoming Supreme Court justices stated Hill did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that SF104 violated the constitution. Neither Hill nor the majority of the court identified which specific duties the Legislature can and cannot transfer, the two justices wrote in their minority opinion.

Such ambiguity leaves the Legislature with no direction on how it should correct its unconstitutional law, the minority justices held.

Hill said in a release she would hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. today in the lobby of the Barrett Building in Cheyenne. 

Hill announced her bid for governor in January of last year, and filed documents with the Wyoming Secretary of State's Office several weeks later to start a political campaign and raise money. 

She launched her gubernatorial campaign in Newcastle Jan. 8.

Hill has until May to decide whether she is running for governor or for another term as superintendent of public instruction. She cannot run for both offices at once, said Peggy Nighswonger, Wyoming state elections director. 

A small group of Hill supporters staged an impromptu rally Tuesday morning in front of the capitol building in Cheyenne. 

They waved American flags while a stereo system blared Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American."

"We've won a great victory here," William Bennett, of Cheyenne, said. "The rights of the citizens of Wyoming has just been respected."

Supporter Maureen Hurley said she is raising two great-grandchildren and is concerned about the school system in Cheyenne.

"With Cindy at the helm again I think things will be OK," she said. "She is a very, very strong lady."

I. M. (Lee) Hasenauer, a Laramie County commissioner and tea party organizer, yelled in the direction of the Wyoming Department of Education nearby, "Get out of Cindy's house."

Meanwhile inside the Department of Education, Director Richard Crandall said he didn't know what would happen next.

He said he is keeping to his schedule for the day which included a meeting of the college board in his office.

Two key members of Gov. Matt Mead's staff, Chief of Staff Kari Gray and Education Policy Adviser Mary Kay Hill were in the education department visiting with human resources staff members.


Check back for more on this story. 

Star Tribune reporters Laura Hancock and Joan Barron contributed to this story.

Reach education reporter Leah Todd at 307-266-0592 or leah.todd@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @leahktodd.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(34) Comments

  1. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - January 29, 2014 11:46 pm
    Want to talk about inept? How about a room full of lawmakers, mostly attorneys illegally usurping the peoples choice to run the Dept of Ed.

    This is exactly why we need a publicly elected Attorney General in this state. Mead has used the AG office as a political piñata bat. Of course the AG assured the public thy what Mead did was legal, the AG was appointed by Mead! Then Mead got his AG a nice life appointment to a Federal job so his lying to the people didn't come back and bite the AG in the arsch.

    These officials violated the constitutional rights of the citizens to elect someone that would be responsible for the children's education--it doesn't get any lower than that.
  2. Pogo
    Report Abuse
    Pogo - January 29, 2014 3:38 pm
    It seems S.F. 104 was not written quite right and therefore the ruling is "Unconstitutional."
    Ok. Let's get it right. The next legislative session is close at hand. It can be done. The legislative investigative committee report will soon be available (along with the financial audit from WDE). Timing is good. The circumstances demand "lawmakers assemble, debate and pass legislation limiting the superintendent's role, as far as the Supreme Court will allow, and do so quickly." In reality Cindy Hill is arguably not a competent leader. Dysfunction and malfunction rule under her jurisdiction. Ineptocracy rules: she is rightfully charged with being inept. This is a mutually exclusive relationship to S.F.104. Irregardless of S.F. 104 being unconstitutional Cindy Hill's ineptness remains. Cindy, bless her little peapickin' heart was attempting to lead a system of governing in the WDE where the least capable to lead was elected by the least capable of assessing her electoral and occupational qualifications and because she had an (R) behind her name on the ballot. Ultimately, she bought the election with a large of amount of her own money and was therefore rewarded with the election. Low information voters contributed to the circumstances of election as well. At the outset this appears as an experiment in Artificial Stupidlity.

    The legislature was merely correcting and existing error brought on by "we the people". There are those, that despite the Supreme Court ruling believe, Cindy Hill couldn't pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel. This ineptness must be corrected and of course within constitutional limits. Impeachment seems self-evident at this juncture and this action is at the opposite pole of the issue related to S.F.104 constitutional reality. We the people can't and shouldn't wait to correct such voter faux paus. This isn't the first time voters have screwed up obviously. Our legislators (our reps -- voted in by "we the people") were merely doing the job we selected them to do. They have a continuing responsibility in this matter at hand -- even now. It has been a great respite since S.F. 104 was passed. Now we must reshuffle the cards and move forward once again. Life and legislative action is not always a straight line as we all know. This is merely half-time in the game, score tied and two quarters to go. Let our democracy and republic continue with it's "we the people" agenda.
  3. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - January 29, 2014 2:01 am
    Quite frankly GetOverit, your comment is as hollow as a drum. It is clear you do not believe what you are writing, but make such comments as someone who has a stake in the matter.

    Are you referring to the same AG who promised everyone publicly that 104 was 100% constitutional? And then ran off to get a lifetime appoint before folks realized he was lying to them?

    You speak of holding public officials accountable for their actions but say nothing of the officials who attempted to remove an elected official via an unconstitutional coupe. Let alone the millions of dollars they have wasted trying to enact what the Supreme Court has said was a law that was "obviously" unconstitutional. If you believe what you wrote, it would be the Gov and certain legislators that you advocate impeacent for, not Ms Hill.

    This ruling shuts the door on any "impeachment" of Ms Hill talk. Why? Because even the blind (with the exception of you) can see that Coe, Teeters, Stubson and noLovenau are so warped and vial they tried to remove Ms Hill and spat on the Constitution along with the will of the people. Everyone in the State except you sees that, and no other politicians will want tie up their boat to those titanics.

    Don't be surprised if Mead announces he is not seeking a second term because he was caught attempting to remove an elected official in violation of the Constitution. Someone has to take responsibility for all this money and time that has been wasted to detriment of our children- And real men know, the buck stops with them and they take responsibility for their actions, even if they were shameful and illicit.
  4. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - January 29, 2014 1:53 am
    I hear the weather in Arizona is nice this time of the year. . .
  5. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - January 29, 2014 1:52 am
    You must be a law student. One of those who knows everything while also being incompetent.
  6. GetOverIt
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    GetOverIt - January 28, 2014 11:26 pm
    Personally, I agree with the Supreme Court decision, but that is not an endorsement of Hill or her administration. Intimidation, threats, sexual harassment, contempt for state and federal rules and regulations, disregard for the AG and Governor's orders on at-will employees, the hostile work environment, obstructing the work of the legislature, tens of thousands of dollars spent for trips of the state plane while claiming to be a fiscal conservative, her inner circle of thugs, lies, lapses of memory, misuse of funds, scrubbing reports, Enough! She should be impeached. Period. If the people of Wyoming are okay with this type of behavior from their elected officials then shame on them! Holding our elected officials accountable for their behavior is not a witch hunt... it is what they sign on for when they run for office. She cannot take the heat, so she blames-- the good old boys, a handful of disgruntled employees, people who don't care about kids, the liberal media, political enemies, bureaucrats... Good Lord! She is a hot mess!
  7. motoboy
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    motoboy - January 28, 2014 9:21 pm
    Mead and his merry band of RINOs have got serious egg on their faces.
  8. ChrisChristian
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    ChrisChristian - January 28, 2014 8:54 pm
    More and more people are home schooling - seems they might be onto something. What a shambles - and expect that we'll see this pile re-elected by the same machine that advised them on this quagmire. Good luck Wyoming because we're in deep sheep here.
  9. Triple BB
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    Triple BB - January 28, 2014 8:48 pm
    Cheyenne's version of comedy central. First a bunch of ignorant voters put a complete idiot into office with Cindy Hill. Then a bunch of clowns decide they don't like the way she does things and take matters into their own hands. Matt Mead once again proves he's just as big of an idiot. Except he has enough money that he'll continue to buy his way out of the quick sand. Hill's tenure will be short lived as she'll likely be impeached. If not, her political career will end with this term. The voters of this State deserve exactly what they're getting. Bawahaha...
  10. ChrisChristian
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    ChrisChristian - January 28, 2014 8:47 pm
    Don't think there's going to be found to be any merit at all to those charges and they'll impeach Mead instead. Investigation is not quite kosher - a little "bought off" going on there too - trying and trying to twist those facts - the snake eats it tail on this one.
  11. ChrisChristian
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    ChrisChristian - January 28, 2014 8:45 pm
    Got that right. Wagons HO! Matt's Gotta Go!
  12. timberfaller
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    timberfaller - January 28, 2014 8:34 pm
    The conservative half of the Republican State Central Committee was dead right on this one. If the legislature had just stuck to the party platforms and resolutions they would not have egg on their faces today. If these elected officials would simply follow the the intentions of the grassroots of the party as expressed by the platforms these embarrassing intra-party conflicts would not happen.
  13. Moore
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    Moore - January 28, 2014 8:15 pm
    Are we awake yet? Natrona County Commissioners lost in court on overreaching with property rights, the state lost on overreaching with Hill, and Casper City Council will lose with the Hedquist "conflict of interest." When is enough, enough? All branches in our state government have corrupted their positions. It's time we get them out.
  14. Mtjwyo
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    Mtjwyo - January 28, 2014 5:54 pm
    "Hill excited to continue using taxpayer money for personal trips to Jackson Hole"
  15. TinBritches
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    TinBritches - January 28, 2014 5:00 pm
    The lawmakers that voted "yea" on SF104 now need to watch their backs next
    election since they voted with the rest of the herd of rinos they are. That simple
    "yea" vote could easily become a campaign cudgel their opponents use in the next
    election. A poll on KGWN's web site already shows the popularity of the Court's
    opinion has approval rate at 70% vs. 30% disapprove. Those kind of results tends
    to indicate Wyoming voters do not approve of elected officials trying to pull an
    end-around of the constitution.
  16. griz
    Report Abuse
    griz - January 28, 2014 4:51 pm
    Not so fast Hill lovers. There is still the looming issue of Hills impending impeachment which is a virtual certainty.

    She has played fast and loose with the publics money and her conduct dealing with employees will be proven to be impeachable offenses.

    I strongly opposed bill 104 but in no way means I supported this train wreck of an official.
  17. SimplyAmerican
    Report Abuse
    SimplyAmerican - January 28, 2014 4:42 pm
    "Meanwhile inside the Department of Education, Director Richard Crandall said he didn't know what would happen next.
    He said he is keeping to his schedule for the day which included a meeting of the college board in his office."

    WHAT DIRECTOR? Crandall has been officially nullified. He has absolutely no authority to meet with any board or make any decisions.

    How will the people of this state be reimbursed for the money paid to him unconstitutionally....?!
  18. Stellys
    Report Abuse
    Stellys - January 28, 2014 4:10 pm
    CareyMitchell, you're wrong about which justices were on the Supreme Court's decision. This case was heard back in October 2013, before Justice Voigt retired. Justice Hill did recuse himself, so the Court brought Justice Golden back from retirement to hear the argument. This is standard procedure, as it would be unfair to the litigants to have fewer than five justices hear the case. Justice Voigt WAS on the opinion; if a justice retires after a case is argued but before a decision is issued, they're still a part of the decision making process, as it would be unfair for the litigants to have a justice who didn't hear the case (Kate Fox) participate in the decision.

    So, the Justices who heard the case were as follows: Kite, Voigt, Burke, Davis, and Golden. Burke, Davis and Voigt were on the majority opnion, and Kite and Golden dissented. No "politics" were involved whatsoever.
  19. Stellys
    Report Abuse
    Stellys - January 28, 2014 4:01 pm
    CareyMitchell, you're wrong about which justices were on the Supreme Court's decision. This case was heard back in October 2013, before Justice Voigt retired. Justice Hill did recuse himself, so the Court brought Justice Golden back from retirement to hear the argument. This is standard procedure, as it would be unfair to the litigants to have fewer than five justices hear the case. Justice Voigt WAS on the opinion; if a justice retires after a case is argued but before a decision is issued, they're still a part of the decision making process, as it would be unfair for the litigants to have a justice who didn't hear the case (Kate Fox) participate in the decision.

    So, the Justices who heard the case were as follows: Kite, Voigt, Burke, Davis, and Golden. Burke, Davis and Voigt were on the majority opnion, and Kite and Golden dissented. No "politics" were involved whatsoever.
  20. position
    Report Abuse
    position - January 28, 2014 2:38 pm
    Wait a minute -"whatever"-, are you insinuating that entrusting our liberties to people who have a specific consonant behind their name (R or a D) is foolish?

    Mead, Coe, Krone and Northrup must answer for casting their votes for SF-104.

  21. randyo
    Report Abuse
    randyo - January 28, 2014 2:10 pm
    I might be in the minority here, but I trust our Legislatures to govern. I think they had the best interests of the People of Wyoming in mind when they tried to fix the Hill problem.
  22. wyofisher
    Report Abuse
    wyofisher - January 28, 2014 1:52 pm
    Who is this county commissioner Hasaneur that thinks it's "Cindy's house?" The seats that these elected officials occupy belong to the people not one individual. It's supporters like him that will ensure she doesn't get out of the primary against Mead. She may have won today but I don't see this as any sort of electoral momentum for her. There are still a lot of voters including some that voted for her last time that think Ms. Hill is not cut out for the job she was elected to let alone being governor.
  23. Buck88
    Report Abuse
    Buck88 - January 28, 2014 1:48 pm
    Thank heavens that the Wyo Supreme Court stood up and defended the written State Constitution. What Mead and his henchmen did legislatively was just plain wrong and that's finally been adjudicated properly, so I think. Congrats to Cindy Hill for playing it out and finally getting what's due her.
  24. Report Abuse
    - January 28, 2014 1:22 pm
    I do not know all of the details of her trial and of the charges,except what was in the newspaper. However, this should serve notice to the governor and the state legislature that they must follow policy to remove someone from office. If there is no impeachment process, shame on the state government. She certainly is not above the law, but the governor should not be allowed to remove her from office on a whim. Lots of wasted money on this, and she gets her job back. WOW! Egg on someone's face.
  25. Charles Curley
    Report Abuse
    Charles Curley - January 28, 2014 1:13 pm
    How embarrassing can it get? Do you realize that one of the most highly paid officers in Wyoming government (OK, after the football coach :-) is in an office which the state supreme court has ruled unconstitutional?
  26. The Dude Abides
    Report Abuse
    The Dude Abides - January 28, 2014 12:45 pm
    Wowsers; now what? This certainly is a telling (and should be embarrassing as well) experiment for a political party that's always ranting about the constitution.
  27. CareyMitchell
    Report Abuse
    CareyMitchell - January 28, 2014 12:11 pm
    I meant to say Hill SHOULD'T have been included on the decision, that was a mistype above.
  28. CareyMitchell
    Report Abuse
    CareyMitchell - January 28, 2014 12:06 pm
    Far and away the most interesting thing in this opinion is the timing and number of justices on it. We have Justice Hill recusing due to his wife's job in the Governor's office, which makes perfect sense. He should be involved. Then we have Justice Voigt retiring January 3 of this year, and Kate Fox joining the Court last week. Neither were on this opinion, thus it is a 3-2 decision in favor of Hill. Doesn't take a lawyer to figure out that Voigt was a no, making it a 3-3 decision, and thus SEA 0001 would have been constitutional. And rather than wait for new Justice Fox to get her feet set and perhaps also join the minority to create a 3-3 decision like when Justice Voigt was there, the Court made use of the 20 days where they were down a judge and issued this ruling. Hate that this kind of politics on the Court had to be used to reach this conclusion. It's monkey business, plain and simple, and a black eye for the Court. They should have allowed Fox to be seated, and brought in a District Court Judge to help break any ties. What a shame!
  29. pappy
    Report Abuse
    pappy - January 28, 2014 11:59 am
    Congratulations to Cindy Hill. This is really a win for WY voters. Senator Coe (who some how got left out of the article), Representatives Teeters, and Lubnau, Governor Mead and the rest of the good old boys made the the Superintendent position into a figure head position. Whether you agree or disagree with the job Cindy Hill was doing it should have been up to the voters to decide. Representative Watt has a bill to do away with SF104 and hopefully it will gain some traction now. This whole fiasco has, and continues to, cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those that caused this to happen should be embarassed at what they've done and should be held accountable by the voters.
  30. nckwfan
    Report Abuse
    nckwfan - January 28, 2014 11:42 am
    Can't wait for comments from Hank Coe. Hill was a lousy super, granted. But the voters (R) put here there. This decision should not be a surprise to anyone. Our legislature is filled with lawyers (including our governor) and they did not know the Wyoming Constitution? This legislative session will be one for the record books. Ms. Hill, I don't care for ya. Keep this job the remainder of this term, and then move on. Who knows, maybe Hank Coe will run for the Supt. job! "Good ole boys club"...indeed.
  31. Cowboyup
    Report Abuse
    Cowboyup - January 28, 2014 10:39 am
    Agreed! Cindy Hill needs to go back and take the reins. Also, she needs to tell the Executive Director and the rest of those who are leaving tomorrow for Arizona to unpack their bags. Heard that the Executive Director is trying to make Wyoming schools like Arizona. In fact, he sends a lot of staff there on a regular basis. Plus, heard he and the Gov don't get along. Welcome back, Cindy! Do us proud and show the us the leader you are!
  32. whatever
    Report Abuse
    whatever - January 28, 2014 10:26 am
    Hillarious! Just one more example of Republicans inability to govern. Let's recap; Republican sheeple vote for incompetent with R behind her name on ballot. Republican proves to be incompetent so Republicans in the legislature concoct a way to get rid of her. Republican governor signs bill assuring its constitutionality. Wyoming Supreme court comprised of primarily Republican nominees rules bill unconstitutional. You can't make this stuff up.
    KK for once you are right about something, that fella from Arizona's gonna be out of a job.
  33. thehousemouse
    Report Abuse
    thehousemouse - January 28, 2014 10:20 am
    well i dont know about you but i think i would be packing my gear up and get out of dodge.mead is wearing alot of egg on his face this morning. deservingly so. Looks like the good old boys club has taken a beating this year so far. from pattersons failed convention center to the failed attenpt of natrona county commissioners attempt to keep a 3rd hospital out, to the much needed decision that will again leave many wondering if re-election is even possible now. i say lets take advantage of this and vote out all these losers and fire the rest. congrates cindy.
  34. Kool Kat
    Report Abuse
    Kool Kat - January 28, 2014 9:53 am
    Well good for Sup't Hill, since the certain Legislators could not release anything valid that Hill did wrong. Now I feel real bad for the fella the Governor appointed for that spot. What about him?
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