The chairman of a state House committee investigating alleged wrongdoing at the Wyoming Department of Education under Superintendent Cindy Hill has asked that the investigation be halted until after the Legislature's budget session concludes in March.
Rep. Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, has heard no objections to his request, he said Monday.
"We’ve got far too much to do to get ready for the session," Lubnau said. "We can’t let this issue interfere with our other legislative duties which is, during this session, to pass a balanced budget."
The legislative session begins Feb. 10.
Committee members also want to see the results of an ongoing audit into some federal grants received by the education department, Lubnau said. According to testimony heard during three days of investigative meetings in Cheyenne this month, the audit is an annual review of any federal grant from which the agency has expended more than $500,000.
"That’s an important component that we just don’t have any control over," Lubnau said of the audit.
The audit will review several areas of concern for investigating lawmakers, including overtime payments made to an employee whose contract did not provide for overtime pay.
Education department spokesman Tom Lacock said Monday he has no information about when the audit will be complete.
After hearing testimony from 16 witnesses in Cheyenne earlier this month, Hill filed a request for 38 more witnesses to testify under oath before the investigative committee concludes its work.
Her list of proposed witnesses includes Gov. Matt Mead, his chief of staff Kari Jo Gray, and Catherine MacPherson, the Rawlins-based attorney whose interviews comprised the initial report into Hill's time at the education department.
Several lawmakers want to hear from some of Hill's witnesses, Lubnau said Monday. A majority of the 16-person committee must support calling a witness before he or she can testify, according to committee rules.
Rep. Mark Baker, R-Rock Springs, said he supports questioning a few of Hill's proposed witnesses because they could bring new information to light.
"To do justice to our constituencies and the whole state of Wyoming, we should hear both sides of any number of issues and hear testimony from the superintendent's office," Baker said.
Of the 16 witnesses the committee called to testify in Cheyenne, two were employed in Hill's office.
Baker also supports hearing again from Hill, who was "visibly tired" when she testified in Cheyenne, he said. During her roughly three hours of testimony, Hill responded to many inquiries by saying she could not recall key details.
"Our testimony [from Hill] was an afternoon, but I don’t know if it was sufficient enough flesh out the details of any one of the topics that were brought up," Baker said.
Baker is the only committee member who supports hearing from more than one of Hill's witnesses, according to Lubnau, the committee chairman.
Six representatives support hearing from John Masters, an attorney for the superintendent's office, Lubnau said. But six votes is not a majority, which committee rules say is necessary before a new witness can be called.
Hill denied wrongdoing throughout her testimony in Cheyenne earlier this month. She said she followed every law and policy while leading the Wyoming Department of Education from January 2011 to early 2013, when a new state law transferred many of her duties to a governor-appointed director.
Hill did not respond to the Star-Tribune's requests for comment Monday.