hill probe

Wyoming House speaker seeks probe of Cindy Hill's education department

2013-06-24T19:00:00Z 2013-08-24T20:23:09Z Wyoming House speaker seeks probe of Cindy Hill's education departmentBy KYLE ROERINK Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau wants a special legislative committee to investigate accusations that Cindy Hill mismanaged the state Department of Education’s funds and staff.

In an email sent to all House lawmakers on Monday morning, Lubnau said a committee would be a “prudent, measured and careful course of action” to determine the fate of Hill, the state’s elected superintendent of public instruction.

A report compiled by an independent task force assembled by Gov. Matt Mead and issued last week highlighted interviews with department staffers who accused Hill of misusing federal special education funds, abusing her privileges to use the state airplane and harassing co-workers while serving as head of the education department.

The legislative investigation would be a possible first step toward impeaching Hill.

“The report, as is exists, is a summary of a series of interviews without conclusions,” Lubnau wrote in his email. “On an issue this important, I believe the people of the State of Wyoming are entitled to conclusions, after an airing of the evidence.”

The committee process could allow lawmakers to call upon interviewees to testify, according to the email. The committee could also subpoena for an additional 5,800 pages of documents that have been classified by investigators as “confidential.”

Lubnau told lawmakers in the email that there were three options in dealing with the matter: Do nothing, empanel a committee or call a special session of the Legislature.

While Lubnau and other House leaders are pushing for the second option, many want the first.

“I’ve received a smattering of emails going both ways,” Lubnau told the Star-Tribune on Monday.

Lubnau planned to announce a decision on Wednesday for the next course of action and said he expected to receive opinions on the matter until the deadline.

Speaker Pro Tempore Rosie Berger, R-Sheridan, said that opinions were consistent with the way the the House voted on Senate File 104 in January, the legislation that stripped Hill of most of her powers as superintendent.the legislation that, when signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead, stripped Hill of her powers and made her position largely a ceremonial one.

The House passed the law by a vote of 39-20 with one member excused.

Lubnau said some lawmakers responded to his email with a fourth option for dealing with Hill.

A group of legislators think federal and state courts should be the ones investigating the allegations that Hill misused more than $40,000 in federal funds.

The court system is best suited for determining guilt or innocence of a crime, said Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, in an email.

“I would suggest that the matter to be referred to either a state or federal prosecutor for review and possible prosecution,” Gingery wrote.

Both Scott Homar, Laramie County district attorney, and Christopher “Kip” Crofts, U.S. attorney for Wyoming, “are capable of reviewing the allegations and determining whether a crime has been committed, and bringing the appropriate action in a court of law,” he wrote.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General is currently reviewing the allegations that Hill misused federal dollars, according to a spokesman for the department.

Meanwhile, the House would be responsible for establishing the guidelines for the committee. Prior to an investigation, the House would need to decide who could testify, how to vote and other rules to help provide an impartial trial, Rep. Tom Reeder, R-Casper, said in an interview with the Star-Tribune.

The investigation won’t only cost more time, it will cost more money, Reeder said. He wasn’t the only legislator with such concerns.

“I am opposed to empaneling a special committee to investigate, not because I don’t think we could be fair and impartial, but because we will have to spend a considerable amount of time determining the parameters and procedures for such a committee to operate,” Gingery wrote in an email.

The inquiry team assembled by the governor cost taxpayers $100,000 and came out of state Attorney General Greg Phillips’ current budget, said Renny MacKay, spokesperson for Mead.

The Legislature commissioned the investigation after it passed SF104.

“What does the state gain by doing this?” Reeder said of the possible legislative special committee. “Are we going to spend more money?”

Rep. Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, said he was in favor of assembling a special committee but understood the public debate over how far to pursue the Hill issues.

“We did this to find out what the truth is and what the department did from a management point and a fiscal point,” Madden said. “If I were a member of the public, I would wonder why we did all this.”

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

(11) Comments

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    JANE BROOKS - July 17, 2013 1:32 pm
    I would LOVE to find out if we can access who uses the state plane or travels with commercial planes on the tax payers buck. Shouldn't we have that right. I'm pretty sure John Barasso's history of tourism in Israel with his wife and tons of other trips would interest the public. Or how about the conferences administration of the department of education attends. World wide? It sure would be nice if the special education wasn't in the dark ages in Cody Wy with the segregation of disabled students and the dredge program they isolate them in to get the dirty work done of trash, laundry, cleaning etc. Hill said she would help , but did NOTHING.
    Report Abuse
    WYOREPUBLICAN - July 09, 2013 9:26 pm
    Criminal charges sir, Criminal charges!
  3. pappy
    Report Abuse
    pappy - June 25, 2013 6:46 pm
    It certainly seems very strange that now Rep. Lubnau believes the voters need the opportunity to make their conclusions based on an airing of the evidence. Why weren't we entitled to to the same airing of evidence when the rushed SF104 through. Why couldn't he have appointed a committee to review issues with Superintendent Hll before SF104. The truth is the legislature got a mob mentality and didn't want to listen to anyone except the "good old boys." It's very possible this whole issue could have been resolved in a manner that didn't make the superintendents position a figure head position.
  4. Wyoite
    Report Abuse
    Wyoite - June 25, 2013 2:20 pm
    Ohhhhh- how we miss Gov Dave! Here's to hoping 2014 winds blow out this garbage in Cheyenne and cleans the air.
  5. Wyoite
    Report Abuse
    Wyoite - June 25, 2013 2:05 pm
    And BTW, the previous Sup didn't do a thing for the reading scores of our kids- or much else for that matter. So comparing an official sitting on his backside in Cheyenne and Hill is laughable. That is why we fired him, and that is why it was possible for Hill's people to increase reading levels in such a dramatic fashion in such a short amount of time. Results my boy, Results!
  6. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - June 25, 2013 1:57 pm
    Did you read the report? She actually was visiting a school in Jackson.

    My point is the Gov better be extremely careful here because he is about to get his donkey handed to him.

    Maybe my assumption is wrong and maybe Hill has used the jets more than Gov Mead. But my perception is the Gov is using the jets a lot- and when he visits these communities via our jet, he very often attends a luncheon. So- if using the jet and attending a luncheon is grounds for criminal charges- our whole State government is going to Rawlins!! Lol. How does one access the logs of who flew on the jets and when? That is going to be fascinating!
    Report Abuse
    WYOREPUBLICAN - June 25, 2013 8:13 am
    You think it is ok to have taxpayers foot the bill for the state plane so she could attend a luncheon at the country club in Jackson?? Sorry, but my conservative values won’t let me ignore the facts! She is the fifth ranking WY elected official and during her first year in office she spent almost as much money using the state plane as the previous Superintendent spent in five years. And you think she will run on a platform to abolish use of the state plane? Ok, that makes a lot of sense. By the way, this isn’t Alaska, although maybe it’s time for her to head north to Barrow… I'll be curious to see what you have to say after the criminal charges are filed..
  8. Sassy
    Report Abuse
    Sassy - June 25, 2013 8:08 am
    Harassment and intimidation is nothing new in State government, just ask the AG's office how many instances have been reported either to them or through the Wyoming Employees Association.
  9. gocovoter
    Report Abuse
    gocovoter - June 25, 2013 5:46 am
    Wouldn't it have been nice, if calmer heads would have asked for an investigation and sought prosecution first before circumventing the constitution and stripping the rights of the voters away.
  10. Wyoite
    Report Abuse
    Wyoite - June 25, 2013 1:14 am
    The Gov needs to reroute his dogs in this debate and forget about the birthday cake (was that just for humor, or did some idiot really think it was intimidating and was relevant??) and ESPECIALLY the use of the State Plane!!

    You see, it's only a matter of time before someone (perhaps waiting for the election season to get underway) assembles a side-by-side list of the use of the State planes by Gov Mead and Sup. Hill, with a simple title "Who really wasted the State's resources??" and then Hill can run (as was successful in Alaska) on a platform that she would get rid of the jets altogether because Wyoming folks don't need jets (unless of course they are from Jackson, which the Mead is). You see? All the sudden this airplane birthday cake complaining turns into a very sore subject during the campaign which can be exploited.

    PS TRIB- Have you got that response from the Governor regarding his public spanking given by the Republican party leadership[ for this fiasco? Or is he still not currently in the country?
  11. WY Citizens
    Report Abuse
    WY Citizens - June 24, 2013 9:03 pm
    These Good Ol' Boys of today reminds me of the Original Cheyenne Club. It may not lead to a war in just one county. These gentlemen will and have already taken out those who stand in THEIR way. And if you are not with them then you must be against them - even members of their party and their voters. Just ask them and they have no problem telling you that they are right and the others are wrong. Just ask Glenn in Gillette or David in Cody or........
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