CHEYENNE — There was tension Tuesday at the Wyoming Department of Education, where employees worried about their job futures as they went quietly about their duties.

The Wyoming Supreme Court decision announced earlier in the day that Senate File 104 was unconstitutional meant their former boss, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, would again be in charge of the department.

Asked if she was worried, longtime education department employee Rita Watson answered, "Kind of. Yes. I think a lot of other people are also concerned."

More than a dozen department employees earlier this month testified against Hill during a hearing before a special state House investigative committee. The panel is investigating claims of wrongdoing by Hill during her tenure as head of the Education Department.

The investigation has since been put on hold until after the upcoming legislative budget session ends in March.

Senate File 104, the legislation signed into law approximately a year ago by Gov. Matt Mead, stripped Hill of her administrative duties over the department but left her with state constitutional responsibility to the K-12 public schools. It also created a governor-appointed director of the Department of Education.

After Mead signed the bill into law, Hill and a few staff members moved from the department offices in the Hathaway Building to the Barrett Building a block away.

The Legislature acted, in part, because of complaints of mismanagement and harassment against Hill that were brought forward by a few department employees. Those employees and others later talked to investigators about Hill.

The court's decision, in effect, eliminates the job of the director of the Department of Education

Richard Crandall, who has held the position for the past six months, said Tuesday that he is worried about the department's staff, particularly the employees who testified at the House hearing.

"There is tremendous concern from a very large number of employees. They're not in a position like I am where they can go and start a new job next week. They need the health insurance. Some are single parents," he said.

Crandall said that while he couldn't give any assurances to the employees, he has asked a human resources staff member to prepare an employee memo that details the state law on the grievance process.

The governor's chief of staff, Kari Jo Gray, and his policy adviser on education, Mary Kay Hill, also talked with employees Tuesday morning, Crandall said.

Cindy Hill said during a noon media conference Tuesday that she was looking forward to working with the employees. Her legal counsel, John Masters, pointed out that only a few of the department's 140 employees complained about Hill's management.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com

(23) comments

Kody Koyote

Dumb article. Does anyone really think a person who has been vindicated by the WSC would turn around and be vindictive? If those who falsely complained against Hill don't want to be afraid of losing their jobs they should apply for a transfer. I don't think they would get a bad recommendation.

wyotruth

I feel really bad for the people working there. Hang in there. She should be gone soon.

Wyoite

I feel bad for them too, they had to suffer through all this turmoil and change in leadership because of personal vendettas of a few legislators who chose to act in violation of our constitution. At least they'll have their rightful leader back- even if she sometimes does run short on cake or doesn't feel like eating a breakfast burrito with them.

wyomom

Kody Koyote: The employees who testified were taking a great risk. I think they were very brave and I don't think they were falsely testifying either. Why do you assume they were? The WSC did not decide that they were lying--they made a decision on the constitutionality of the law. Did you not understand that? Cindy Hill was extremely vindictive and threatening to a lot of employees. Many left longtime jobs in a bad economy to get away from that. What makes you think she won't do that again?

Wyoite

Wyomom- WSC vindicated Cindy.

In terms of the truthfulness and sincerity of the stories about Ms Hill not having enough birthday cake or not wanting to eat breakfast burritos- they are suspect, but believe them if it floats your boat.

Remember- those are the same witnesses that were coached by Lubnau's guys and the WSC just told us what kind of guy he is.

pappy

The WSC did not vindicate Cindy Hill or the actions she took as Superintendent. What the WSC said was that the legislature went to far went it stripped most of the duties from the Superintendents Office. The WSC didn't say anything about Cindy Hill or the job she was doing. She won't be able to go in and terminate people because they testified against her or she will open herself and the Dept up to lawsuits. Even she is smart enough to know that.

Wyoite

Make no mistake about it Pappy- the Supreme Court found that Mead, Lubnau, Teeters, Stubson and Coe's attempt to remove Hill as the Sup was ILLEGAL.

Don't mince words. These men were caught red handed and cannot possibly mount a defense for their actions. What? Are they going to say "I wasn't there!"? Their names are on exhibit 1.

EasyTurbo

Wyoite, you still don't get it. Yes, the SC found that SF104 was illegal. That's it. The means by which they removed her from her position was ruled unconstitutional, but that has no bearing whatsoever on her job performance and behavior toward other WDE employees.

Wyoite

Easy turbo- so why would a room full of lawyers, including the Gov, conspire to illegally remove an elected official??

You see IMO--
they've sifted sand for months trying to find dirt on Hill, and now it turns out these guys were were doing illegal things the whole time. They created an unlawful position for a friend of Hank Coe and paid him crazy amounts of money. Now that's impeachable!

Whether you believe Cindy should have baked a bigger birthday cake so that everyone could get a piece, or she should have ate the egg burritos for breakfast, it all pales in comparison to the above unlawful activity.

pappy

Wyoite make no mistake I feel what coe teeters lubnau and mead did was totally wrong and I hope voters hold them responsible.

thehousemouse

I would be afraid to lose my job is i beared false witness too. did you all read these peoples testimony. Well many of us did and they were not exactly telling the triuth, nor were they telling anything of any consiquence. In fact many sounded like big cry babies. Oh she did not like me. whining came to mind on more then half of the make up alligations. some did not even work for the department of education. see sometimes just sometimes the system works.

Moore
Moore

I feel bad for the employees. They got caught up in the 'rule of the mob" mentality that most people do. The things the employees complained about were petty, at best. They need to voluntarily find new jobs. And yes Crandall, this is Wyoming, they can find new jobs that will accept their petty behavior. And as for Crandall, the job was never his to begin with.

rigrat
rigrat

Karma is a ______ you fill in the blank.

Kool Kat

Attn rat, :-) that's a fact. Confucius say, "never bite the hand that feeds you, as you may not get fed". Cindy Hill says, "its not nice to fool with mother teacher, without proof".

griz

Make no mistake Hill lovers. Those who view the decision of the WSC as a vindication of Cindy are beyond foolish. Cindy's impeachment is a virtual certainty. And not subject to redress. In any event Cindy will not win another election anywhere.

Kool Kat

Attn griz, no one claimed Cindy didn't do wrong - what everyone was asking (simply), show us what she did wrong? The Legislators could not offer proof in the time allotted to them. And last I'd heard [unless Obama executive ordered the Constitution null and void] that everyone is presumed innocent till proven guilty.

thehousemouse

as usual, some people dont get it. weather cindy is re-elected or not impeached or not. the fact and the only fact here is the boys dont get to over ride your voting process of election of a supper intendant. thats the real victory here. im not for or againstr her personally. but what i am against is trying to take a voted position from the people. so talk smack if you must but this is one of the biggest victories to come down from supreme court in wyoming. it stops alof of things that were to happen and you as a people could have not done anything about it.

ers

Why is this guy even sitting in Hill's chair? The court says he has no JOB! Needs to go sit in Meads office....he has NO authority to do anything at all...NADA!

solitude

This is baffling. When the constitutional issue first came up, it was obvious that the meaning of the wording in regard to the Secretary of Education's duties could go either way in the WSC's decision. It appears that some of the employees in the department assumed a slam dunk decision for the governor and a group of legislators. Now those employees are disturbed about the outcome because of their testimony at the hearings? With all due respect to those employees, they may have made a poor choice to jump on the anti-Hill bandwagon before the issue was decided, but they have to live with their choice and should not complain about being worried for their future. What I would like to know is who influenced these employees to testify and why they believed they could testify against Hill without consequences if the decision did not go the governor's way.

WYO-BILL

I concur.

The sweet 16 better start packing.

"What goes around comes around"

GetOverIt

Solitude- Since when is it legal to impose "consequences" on public employees who bear testimony to the misdeeds of an elected official? If I follow your line of thinking, you're saying that those 14 people who provided sworn testimony... those 14 souls who had the audacity to say that the Emporer had no clothes... Those 14 individuals should have KNOWN there would be consequences (aka retribution, payback, retaliation), if ever there came a day when Hill was once again in a position of power. You're right. That is a no brainer. If you truly believe in your heart that those people deserve to lose their jobs because they crossed Cindy Hill, I urge you to apply for a position with the OSPI. You'll fit right in.

Pogo

Griz has it right.

Sassy
Sassy

I listened to some of the testimony, Moore got it right...petty at best.

One of the persons testified "under oath" they were upset Supt. Hill did not eat a burrito during a morning meeting.

If that isn't petty- I don't know what is...................

In my opinion much of this "witch hunt" was orchestrated by Hank Coe who was "handed his hat" by Supt Hill during a radio call in show in the Bighorn Basin.

Hank aligned his band of misfits- starring Lubanau, Teeters and Stubson to launch a all out assault on the Superintendent. Mind you all of was developed under the veil of darkness. SF104 was months in the making and was not simply thrown together as they played it.


Now after the WSC has ruled- this band of misfits are foaming at the mouth over the decision. They have Mead and the AG also wreathing --and joined hands with them to ask the WSC to re-think its decision.

Bad characters and bad actors seem to be the norm in Wyoming politics ..........

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