CHEYENNE — A Wyoming legislative committee plans a three-day hearing next week on Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill’s administration of the state education department.
The Legislature’s Select Investigative Committee is eyeing the work Hill did before the Legislature removed the elected official in early 2013 from overseeing the agency. Hill has denied any wrongdoing.
Hill has remained in office after losing authority over the agency because of a new law enacted last winter by the Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Matt Mead. An administrator appointed by the governor now oversees the department.
Hill, also a Republican, is challenging the constitutionality of the law and a decision is pending from the Wyoming Supreme Court on her lawsuit to overturn it.
Advocates of the law say it was necessary because Hill was delaying and hindering education reform efforts and doing a poor job of running the department.
House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said the committee will meet from Monday through Wednesday in Cheyenne.
It’s seeking information about the handling of federal funds and personnel issues during Hill’s tenure.
“We just want to find out what happened and follow the legislative process for that,” Lubnau said. “This isn’t adversarial. We’re just asking people what happened.”
Lubnau said discussion of possible impeachment proceedings against Hill would only come after all the evidence has been heard. At this point, the panel’s work is focusing on fact-finding, he said.
The hearing will also cover topics including budgeting and administrative activities, state involvement with Fremont County School District 38 and the department’s response to legislative directives.
The committee has scheduled 16 witnesses to testify under oath, including Hill.
Hill said Monday that she believes some of the witnesses are biased against her and that she is disappointed she won’t be allowed to question witnesses directly.
“We see a list of hand-picked people, many of whom are being asked to testify concerning things about which they have no first-hand knowledge,” Hill said in a media release.
“More troublesome is how some of these folks have shown clear bias in the past and now may be using this as a stage to further their personal agenda.”
Hill said she intends to draft questions during the upcoming testimony and will try to get committee members to pose them to the witnesses.
Lubnau said legislators didn’t seek to attack the superintendent.
“We had complaints as a body from the members of the education committee who weren’t getting the information they needed and a large number of current and former Department of Education employees who were telling the Legislature about things that needed to be investigated,” he said.