law

Wyoming Gov. Mead signs superintendent bill into law; Hill sues

2013-01-29T20:45:00Z 2014-12-31T18:47:05Z Wyoming Gov. Mead signs superintendent bill into law; Hill suesFrom staff and wire reports Casper Star-Tribune Online
January 29, 2013 8:45 pm  • 

Gov. Matt Mead signed into law the most dramatic changes to the duties and powers of a statewide elected official in decades, and Superintendent Cindy Hill answered with a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the changes made to her office.

The new law signed Tuesday replaces the superintendent of public instruction as head of the state Department of Education with a director appointed by the governor.

As directed by the law, Mead appointed Jim Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, as interim director to take over supervision of the department and execute the transition until a permanent director is appointed later this year.

During a news conference Mead told how he studied the bill over the weekend and took into consideration the concerns of the Legislature and opponents of the bill.

He also noted the structural problems in the education system that has been an issue for years.

“This was a very tough decision for me,” Mead said. “I don’t think anybody would view this as a celebration. I think they would view this as a duty that we must move forward on for the kids in Wyoming.”

He said state Attorney General Gregory Phillips issued an opinion that said the law is constitutional.

Mead also said he has been meeting with Hill and believes they can work together during the transition of duties.

“It’s a difficult situation for the superintendent. We’re both on a tough road but we’re committed to work through it. She obviously has a passion for education. I want to get it right,” Mead said.

Hill attended Mead’s signing ceremony in the governor’s office and accompanied her attorney in serving the lawsuit to the governor after he had finished. The lawsuit was filed in Laramie County District Court on Tuesday, and Judge Thomas Campbell was assigned to the case. No court dates were immediately set.

Hill later conducted her own press conference, saying she and two of her supporters, Kerry and Clara Powers, filed the lawsuit. The lawsuit names Mead as a defendant. It seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the “takeover” of the superintendent’s office pending a court review of the constitutional question.

The lawsuit says the ousting of a constitutionally created and elected office-holder is, by its very nature, irreparable harm and violates the consent of the people and nullifies their vote. Hill was elected to a four-year term in 2010.

Hill said her lawsuit “challenges the raw, unchecked exercise of power of the legislative branch.”

“The leadership in the Senate and the House, by pushing through this measure with great haste, limiting public input, and engaging in other questionable tactics, have let us down,” Hill said, reading from a prepared statement.

“And today, the governor has let us down,” she added.

Calling this “a watershed moment in Wyoming history,” Hill said if the exercise of power in Senate File 104 is allowed to stand, the Legislature can strip other state office-holders of power as well.

The power comes from the people, she added.

By filing the lawsuit, Hill said she is “shining a bright light on what has been and is happening in the halls of the Legislature and in our governor’s office.”

Although Hill thumped the governor in her statement, she said they had an amicable meeting after his news conference.

By the end of the week, Hill said, she and her employees expect to know what the transition will entail.

Her focus on the children is “undaunted,” and she has been able to endure slander and innuendo because she is “extremely strong.”

The superintendent legislation sped through the Legislature in 12 days despite concerns from some lawmakers about its constitutionality and the specter of court challenge ahead.

Supporters of the change say the state Constitution provides that the Legislature determines the duties and powers of the superintendent.

Two years into her term, Hill has alienated and frustrated state lawmakers and others who took issue with how she ran a department with a $1.9 billion two-year budget and 150 employees.

Her tenure so far has included accusations that she improperly redirected state money to programs not authorized by the Legislature and hindered legislative reform efforts to better prepare Wyoming students for college and careers. Hill has defended her administration of the agency and denied obstructing education reform laws.

Meanwhile, Mead said the Legislature’s appropriations committee is working on a budget for the new permanent director and Hill’s new office, which will be located separate from the Department of Education.

Hill will have her own team and will continue to be a member of state boards and commissions.

The governor said he doesn’t intend to make any changes in the department and wants stability for the employees.

Rose said his first priority will be to find a permanent director.

Members of the state Board of Education will select three candidates, from which the governor will name a permanent director by Dec. 1. The person selected must be confirmed by the Wyoming Senate.

Rose said he will recommend a national search for the permanent director but will not apply for it himself. He said his experience has been in higher education.

Rose said he will be able to juggle the two jobs with the help of his deputy on the commission, Matt Petry.

His salary as interim director will be the same as it has been as community college commission director.

Rose said he and the governor will meet Monday with State Board of Education trustees to discuss the logistics of the transition.

The last time major changes were made to a statewide elected office was in the early 1990s when the state auditor’s duties were reorganized.

Star-Tribune capital bureau reporter Joan Barron contributed to this story.

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

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

(20) Comments

  1. common joe-joe
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    common joe-joe - January 30, 2013 9:24 pm
    Bobaloo--The point is this: WE ARE THE PEOPLE who voted her in, right or wrong, but WE voted her in. Our forefathers fought in wars for us to HAVE that RIGHT, not for someone from our own State to take that away from US! I'm not a Cindy Hill fan, but this State voted for her to do a job and if she doesn't, then WE the people will VOTE her OUT!! Government is taking over our lives and YOU think that's OKAY???? Please think that through!
  2. WyoCowboy7
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    WyoCowboy7 - January 30, 2013 9:09 pm
    I agree with completely with Bobaloo. The only fact I'm not sure of is how many jobs Hill has been fired from, I am only aware of Carey Jr. High. However the rest is true to my knowledge. Hill did have some of her duties taken away, I'm curious how many people actually knew what the duties of the state superintendent actually were when they voted her into office? From the people I have spoken to about this most people didn't know much other than she was a Republican. If you are a tax payer or have children in Wyoming you should thank Governor Mead and the Legislators for listening to the voices of the people who are very aware of the damage that has been done to education. Many of of these people voted for Hill and now regret that terribly. I know this because I was one of them and know many more!!
  3. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - January 30, 2013 8:23 pm
    bobaloo. Show us the cards son. You can't just make this stuff up and then purport it to be true- not even the Trib is trying to pin that stuff on her, and they hate Hill. Had she done those things she would have easily been impeached. High turnover in public sector jobs is a good thing, it means someone is shaking the trees and requiring public servants to actually get off their arsch and serve the public.

    I don't think she's done a particularly stellar job, but it is a principal of democracy that has been attacked here. All dictators try to convince their people that they know what is best for them and they really have their best interest at heart. Hitler probably really did think he was doing what was best for the German people. Stalin really did think the communism was the best way to run a society. Castro, no doubt, felt that his ideas and ideals helped improve the Cubans lives. When democracy dies, liberty dies, regardless of how "justified" people feel.

    It's not as if they impeached Hill and asked the people to replace her. They removed an elected position which is crucial to the correct education of our children. Whats next, now that the Gov has control of the schools is he going to raise a Meadjungend to progress his agenda??

    I know the governor believes in his heart he is doing the right thing for our kids, but he needed to take a broader view and ask if what he was doing was good for freedom and democracy.
  4. bobaloo
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    bobaloo - January 30, 2013 7:12 pm
    She hould be impeached. Stripping her duties is not enough. She misused state and federal funds, exceeded her own travel budget, used the state plane like a limo. She should not even be delegated the duties left to her. Listen up! Fired from 3 jobs, 48% turnover in 2 years? Those of you screaming "rights" have no idea of the misery she has caused. Go ahead, vote her in as governor and watch her and her friends do the same thing at the state level. Do you think the legislature,who are normally so self centered, would risk their political careers if it was just a Coe/Teeters vendetta?
  5. mcfromkc
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    mcfromkc - January 30, 2013 4:53 pm
    Wow this is better than roller derby, a circular firing squad of republicans!
    So let's review, the repubs elect an unqualified superintendent. same repubs elect majority of state legislature - repub legislators vote to undo disaster created by elected repub official - repub governor signs bill - repub voters scream like wounded animals. I gotta get some more popcorn.
  6. pappy
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    pappy - January 30, 2013 12:02 pm
    Does it seem a little strange that the Gov who hadn't made up his mind on this bill was able to announce an interim director the same time he announced that he was signing the bill. Either the Gov didn't put much time or thought into who he was going to select as Director or he made up his mind a lot earlier than he has indicated. Was this the recommendation from the Board of Education or was it soley the Gov choice? Do you really think Senator Coe is going to go through all this if he doesn't have the Gov backing? I don't,, in fact Senator Coe may have been packing the Gov water for him, no that he didn't enjoy it. Perhaps the state news papers should be looking into this hiring practice as well as UW keep them in the dark policy.
  7. common joe-joe
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    common joe-joe - January 30, 2013 12:01 pm
    I guess now we will have to dip into the rainy day account and pay for all the lawsuits that will come of this. No wonder education cost so much. Thanks Coe and Teeters!!! Maybe we will have to add another TAX to gasoline to pay for this too!!??
  8. flyfisher11
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    flyfisher11 - January 30, 2013 11:35 am
    I'm no fan of Cindy Hill. She has made enemy's of the legislature and governor, when she didn't need to. Dumb. That said this is nothing more than a personal vendetta against Hill by Hank Coe and others in the legislature, and Governor Mead has unwisely decided to pile on.

    Coe has allowed his own personal agenda to out weigh his obligation to do what is best for his constituents and all Wyoming citizens. I fail to see how Wyomingites are best served by the legislature taking away their right to elect an educational leader. To say nothing of the million dollars a year in additional costs.

    I believe in a seperation of powers. I believe it is good for us to have checks and balances on the various state departments. I also believe that it's wise to have someone with some background in education provide some checks and alternate perspective on the legislature as they reform education in Wyoming. Hill did this, and for her efforts her job description and authority have been eviscerated, as has my power as a voter. Never mind the fact that she was elected to her office by the voters, just like Coe and Mead.

    I'm angry about this. Really angry. Not because I like Cindy Hill.......because I don't. I'm angry because this is nothing more than elected officials carrying out personal agenda's and vendetta's at the expense of the voter. Officials in my own party.

    I hope the courts find this law unconstitutional and return the power of this office back where it belongs. Back to the people.
  9. just sayin'
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    just sayin' - January 30, 2013 8:14 am
    Cindy Hill was elected because she was a Republican. She was an assistant principal at a middle school where she would not have been rehired had she not been elected to the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction. She did not know what she was doing, tried to make all the employees of the Dept. of Education “at will employees” and was tyrannical in her control over said employees. Members of her department were scared to speak out against her because she created a climate of hate and fear; you questioned her authority and you were either demoted, or booted. After over 60 employees left the department and only the “yes mam, you’re the boss” employees were left and no one was able to offer any input without threat of retribution, she then specifically failed to enact laws that were approved by the Wyoming legislature. Her own fellow republicans had enough of her obstructionism. Now she will sue the leaders of her own party because they “probably” violated the state constitution by taking away her authority. What a mess!
  10. side oiler
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    side oiler - January 30, 2013 8:03 am
    Wyoming needs to rid itself of all the phony RINO's who continuously make an a$$ out of the state.Hill may ,or may not,be the best person for the job,but these phonies like Coe from Cody,a town full of nothing but phony bigots,make Obama look like a kool aid stand operator.People of Wyoming,think outside the phony RINO box next time you vote for these dandies.
  11. supercalifragilistic
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    supercalifragilistic - January 30, 2013 7:55 am
    Do you know something the rest of us don't?
  12. supercalifragilistic
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    supercalifragilistic - January 30, 2013 7:50 am

    Ok, I was told by a some good reliable friends (not till after I posted initially) that the legislature appropriations committee of the legislature was peed off at her for spending the way this committee didn't want her to spend. WELL EXCUSE ME! Isn't this why we have a department of education, to closely monitor how public monies are spent according to the people's choice of superintendent? In the corporate world, this called "micromanagement of a department head. Notice to all bureaucrats in Cheyenne: either give the education department money, or don't shumucks! (This includes legislature bureaucrats)

  13. Intheknow
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    Intheknow - January 30, 2013 7:35 am
    Thank you, Gov. Mead.
  14. Yonk
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    Yonk - January 30, 2013 7:17 am
    Attention Wyoming the GoP has failed you, put some new blood in office
  15. supercalifragilistic
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    supercalifragilistic - January 30, 2013 7:02 am
    I think I read somewhere where, this position "years ago" was placed on the ballot to see if the public would prefer to vote for this position, or Governor appoint? Just as (former) Gov. Fruedenthal tried (or at least though about) suing the people's "term limit" will.

    Now we're seeing the legislature over turn the people's will with the Governor by not allowing an elected official finish her term. Isn't this what the republicans blasted the democrats in DC regarding Obamacare and spending without public consent?
    Now you're telling the voting public "you don't have a choice, Government in Cheyenne, knows better?? Because to date, the reasons for drastic changes has never been made publicly by those that presented this bill and those that voted to support it, like the Governor.

    Do Wyomingites need to start over as well with "fresh faces" in Cheyenne next election cycle?
  16. carlover
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    carlover - January 30, 2013 6:30 am
    i hope she kicks their arse. she was voted in and the citizens must have felt ok about it, but to over ride the consitiution. thats inexcusable. time to put these boys in their place. get em cindy.
  17. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - January 30, 2013 6:26 am
    At least this lawsuit will allow us to ascertain whether AG Greg Phillips knows what he is talking about when it comes to legal matters, or is a bumbling idiot that Mead should fire for being incompetent and wasting time and the State's resources. We should know soon enough.
  18. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - January 30, 2013 6:20 am
    I thought Mead was smarter than to get caught up in Hank and friend's stupid vendettas. Why would he want to get involved betraying the electorate? Et tu Mead? He must not understand that the folks he just betrayed are the same folks who elected him.

    We had a bad situation in the Wyo Dept of Ed, he hired someone to fix it and gave her 4 years to do it, and now we won't know whether she was the right person or not. Ms. Hill may not have had a lot of fans based on her results, but there is a lot of sympathy out there now and it does reek of "good ol' boys" picking on the woman. I hope she challenges Mead in 2014 and reminds voters of this bill. Perhaps that will allow her to make the changes she was hired to make.
  19. Sassy
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    Sassy - January 30, 2013 6:08 am
    Sour grapes is right- the "vendetta bill" I noticed Coe's smug grin on the TV after the bill passed. I hope the lawsuit blows the lid off the whole can of worms in Wyoming State Government
  20. MountainMan
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    MountainMan - January 30, 2013 5:23 am
    What a mess. Now a lawsuit. The House speaker put this bill through the Appropriations Committee rather than the Education Committee because this bill would not pass the only committee that knows education! This Department has a $1.9 billion dollar budget now and the Appropriations committee had nothing to do with that! Pure sour grapes politics.
    And they tossed out a teacher--one that worked with kids. The new Director darn well better have teaching credentials for the job---not just educational experience. The voters elected a teacher, not a bureaucrat, to head this office. The GOP leadership in the legislature flunked common sense and decency in this end run around the Consitition and the vote of the people. There were better ways to make changes that were publically discussed and voted on by the citizens.
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