Although impeachment looms over Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, she said she’s not going to let it stop her campaign for governor.

“They’ll do whatever they’re going to do,” she said in Newcastle on Wednesday, after an event to launch her campaign. “I don’t have any control over that because there doesn’t have to be any facts. There are no facts involved in impeachment. So, it’s all political. I can’t control it so I don’t think about it.”

Hill is being investigated for alleged misconduct while leading the Wyoming Department of Education. The Legislature stripped Hill of her administrative duties over the department last year. The investigation could lead to impeachment. The Wyoming Constitution prohibits officials who have been impeached from seeking public office again in the state.

Hill’s connection to Newcastle, where she kicked off her campaign before 13 people at the Weston County Senior Citizens Center, was that it was her childhood home. The Senior Citizens Center used to be a school that Hill attended from kindergarten to fifth grade. Her mother taught there. After Newcastle, her family moved to Rawlins and then to Wheatland, she said.

Impeachment implications

Hill, who describes herself as an optimist, isn’t concerned that her potential impeachment could scare away potential campaign donors.

“I think [among] the people who know me, I have a lot of support,” she said.

Her first campaign finance report isn’t due to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office until Aug. 12, seven days before the Aug. 19 primary.

“I’ve been a little busy,” Hill said, in reference to the Legislature's Select Investigative Committee, which on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday heard testimony by Hill and Department of Education employees, many of whom alleged misconduct from January 2011 to early last year. “Have I been focused on [fundraising?] No, but I’m certainly hopeful. That’s always an important piece.”

Gillette Republican Tom Lubnau, the House speaker and chairman of the Legislature's Select Investigative Committee, said Hill’s potential impeachment is far down the road.

The committee will pour over a list of witnesses Hill is submitting and decide whether they should testify on the issues the committee is investigating – which include alleged mistreatment of employees, altering official Education Department reports and misspending funds, Lubnau said.

The committee will write a draft report of its findings and give Hill 15 days to comment. Then it will issue the final report, which could make recommendations for further legislative action, including impeachment or changes in the way state government operates, Lubnau said.

To start an impeachment, a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives would sponsor a bill. If a majority favors impeachment, Hill would be tried by the Wyoming Senate, which has the final impeachment authority, Lubnau said.

“We’re going to have to think real long, real hard about the impeachment option,” he said. “There are other options.”

Lubnau disagreed with Hill’s characterization of the impeachment process as not being based on facts. There were legislators who wanted to impeach Hill last year, but Lubnau prohibited them from moving forward, he said.

“I said, ‘No, it’s got to be based on facts,’” he said.

Experience and positions

Hill said her experience and passion make her a strong gubernatorial candidate.

“I’m familiar with one of the largest budgets in the state of Wyoming, an almost $2 billion budget,” she said of the Department of Education’s budget. “I know I can learn the rest.”

She doesn’t fold, she said. She has what it takes to fight the encroachment of the federal government in Wyoming, such as its attempts to protect wolves or federalize education or energy policy. She doesn’t fear being unpopular. She will stand up for the Constitution and Wyoming’s way of life, she said.

“I’m willing to speak to the values of the Wyoming people,” Hill said, then mentioned SF104, the legislation that removed her from overseeing the Department of Education. “That’s why they want to get rid of me so badly. Heck, I’m an educator. They did SF104. Why is there an investigation on me?”

As governor, Hill would like more at-will state employees who can be fired at any time, she said. Most state employees are classified, and there are procedures that require working with an employee before they can be let go.

“We have four branches of government,” Hill said. “The fourth branch is bureaucracy.”

Hill questioned whether the public is best served by career bureaucrats “because you forget what it’s like, I think, to be in the real world,” she said.

There are term limits on Wyoming’s elected officials; ”maybe there should be limits on how long you should be in state government,” she said.

Hill is under fire for trying to make some positions at the Department of Education at-will. During last week’s hearings, a state human resource manager testified that Hill’s administration asked five classified employees to sign at-will letters, despite a state attorney general’s opinion that elected officials didn’t have the authority to determine employment status.

Betty Jo Beardsley, executive director of the Wyoming Public Employees Association, said there is a reason public employees shouldn’t be at-will employees.

In an environment as political as state government, an administrator or elected official could take over an office, fire everyone and replace them with their cronies. That would cost the state money in training and lost knowledge and skills, Beardsley said.

The WPEA would likely oppose making more employees at-will, Beardsley said.

Hill has a website, www.cindyhillforgovernor.com, although nothing was posted on the site as of Friday evening.

Supporters

If Linda Curley could describe Hill in three words, they would be “honest,” “sincere,” and “integrity,” she said.

“I just think she’s an honest person and she was done wrong,” Curley said. “I voted her in [for superintendent] because I thought she was the person who could do the job, and they took that away from her.”

Curley lives in Newcastle with her husband, William Curley, who is helping with Hill’s campaign.

Pat Logan, who also attended Hill’s campaign launch, used the word “patriotic” to describe Hill, although Logan said he is still gathering information about the candidates before the election.

“She’s an upright person, she’s done her research, and her heart’s in the right place,” he said.

If the election were held tomorrow, Dana Mann-Tavegia doesn’t know whom she would vote for. But Mann-Tavegia, who used to serve on the Wyoming State Board of Education, wanted to attend the campaign kickoff.

“This is pretty historic for our town,” she said. “I worked with Cindy for many years. I thought this would be an event I would want to see.”

State Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, also attended. He voted against the bill last year that stripped Hill of most of her powers.

“I’m just here to see what she has to say,” he said. “No positions.”

Despite wanting more at-will positions in state government, Hill told the Newcastle crowd she has plenty of support there.

“There are a lot of people in state government who know who I am,” she said.

Opponents

Hill will likely run against Gov. Matt Mead, but he has not yet announced whether he will seek a second term.

His spokesman, Renny MacKay, declined to comment on Hill’s campaign.

“As is customary for sitting governors in Wyoming, Gov. Mead will wait until after the [legislative] session to make an official announcement,” MacKay said in an email.

Hill is also running against Taylor Haynes, a Cheyenne physician and rancher, who last year announced his candidacy and filed papers to form a campaign committee with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office.

“He doesn’t have three years of tested experience,” Hill said of Haynes.

Hill said Haynes raised tuition too frequently while a trustee at the University of Wyoming. She encouraged people to look up minutes at the University of Wyoming’s trustee meetings to learn more about him.

A man in the Newcastle audience worried that Hill and Haynes will cancel each other out, guaranteeing Mead will be reelected. That person asked Hill if she could join forces and run with Haynes as a team.

“I think you should talk to Taylor about your thoughts,” Hill told the man.

Haynes said he’s not concerned about splitting the vote. He looks at the governor’s race as a job interview. If Wyomingites agree with his vision and qualifications, they will vote him in, he said.

Haynes said he worked intimately with UW budgets and has had success in the free enterprise system. Before medical school, he worked as a mechanical engineer for Kennecott Copper when it owned coal mines. He has other natural resource experience from his work in ranching. He learned about health care as a doctor.

“So far she’s running because she’s angry and wants to get even with the governor,” he said. “Well, I don’t need to attack here. My offer is to the voters of Wyoming.”

Reach state reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at laura.hancock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

(12) comments

Pigdog
Pigdog

I think now would be a great time for Mrs. Hill to ride off into the sunset. Pretty please?

Sassy
Sassy

Mead hasn't done anyone any favors....except the good ole boys..and Yellowstone

DK
DK

You want to end the "good ol boys" club run against Enzi. His desire to tax internet sales proves he is for the "good ol boys" not the citizens of Wyoming.

Wyoite
Wyoite

Mead better get off his but and start running. Here is a news flash for you all- Cindy is actually leading. Check out the poll at Kgwn.tv

I guess it's not too surprising, there are a lot of folks out there who hired Cindy to run the schools and they're angry.

Kool Kat
Kool Kat

I'd take a deep breathe if I were you. As you come across as saying that "as Cheyenne goes, same does Wyoming"? I don't think so ... Cindy has to campaign beyond Cheyenne.

Wyoite
Wyoite

KK- I agree with you, you are 100% correct, but what this shows is that she is well supported. She is a sympathetic candidate who received 17,000 more primary votes than Mead did in 2010, and both were in a 4 way race.

If Mead keeps ignoring her he is in for a big surprise in August.

Perhaps Mead 1. Isn't running, or 2. Has worked something out with Lubnau to make sure Hill is impeached. I guess he has his reasons for not actively campaigning in an election year.

Kool Kat
Kool Kat

Attn Wyoite, Mead has made some great strides regarding the EPA
1) He made the US EPA back off with Pavilion, Wyoming
2) Just just embarrassed EPA with their recent debacle in giving the tribes "state hood" in Wyoming.
That's a real leader to rise to occasion as that.
I have nothing against Hill but, Mead really took on a Governorship role with those moves. That's exactly what Wyomingites look for, not that Hill would not be formidable.

TBA
TBA

Mead,along with the twin duds,Lummis and Cubin,were serious mistakes.Hopefully the RINO voters in Wyoming won't make the mistake of re-electing Mead.

Surmisewise
Surmisewise

Not surprised by any of this but believe that Cindy Hill is running for governor for all the wrong reasons. Is my opinion that she has an agenda(much like anyone else) which would be getting revenge for the what she believes to be mistreatment(on her part) as it pertains to her ousting from the superintendent position. I myself have had quite enough of all the press this seems to get and believe me it's far from over. Would seem to be a testimonial to the monster egos that politicians have and the inability for one to let go and pursue some other avenue of his or her life.

Cowboy Joe
Cowboy Joe

Experience? God help our state if she's in charge!

Brutus
Brutus

In Charge... ooh my.. She will be impeached then she will be in Prison for committing fraud and improper use of Federal Funds... Then the Wyoming Government will be on the chopping block for allowing this to take place. It is illegal to misuse federal funds for any purpose.. by by Cindy your next position and stop will be Rawlins!!!

Dogg
Dogg

You bet Cindy Hill for Gov....you got what you voted for !

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