Citing a lack of funding, the Wyoming Legislature will hold off on studying the University of Wyoming’s governing structure until at least 2021.
The study, which was passed as part of the Legislature’s budget bill earlier this year, was intended to investigate the leadership model of Wyoming’s only public four-year college after investigative reporting showed its trustees had authorized a secretive investigation of former president Laurie Nichols prior to her departure last year.
While lawmakers initially expressed some apprehension in passing the study, the proposal eventually made its way to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk after members of both the House and Senate shared concerns about a culture of secrecy at the university, particularly given the revolving door of leadership that has plagued the university over the past decade.
The news comes just days after a joint report by the Star-Tribune and WyoFile revealed another secretive investigation into a top administrator at the University of Wyoming had been launched last year.
No funding was attached to the study, with the assumption that the Legislative Service Office could use its preexisting flex authority in the legislative budget to pay for the consultants who would do most of the heavy lifting.
However, on Tuesday members of legislative leadership voted to reduce the legislative budget in response to a revenue downturn tied to COVID-19. The spending cut was so steep, according to LSO director Matt Obrecht, that the office would no longer have any funding to engage in activities beyond essential functions of the legislative branch.
Additional funding for the study could be appropriated in a supplemental budget bill in a later session of the Legislature. While lawmakers have expressed a willingness to meet in special sessions throughout the interim session to address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of understanding about the state’s finances as well as a general reluctance to pass controversial legislation ahead of an election are likely to push any major votes until next winter.
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