The Wyoming Legislature’s Select Investigative Committee will start a three-day hearing on Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill’s administration of the state Department of Education on January 6th.
The committee will look at Hill’s performance before she was removed from overseeing the department by the Legislature in early 2013. Hill has denied any wrongdoing, writes Aerin Curtis of Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
After losing authority over the agency, Hill has remained in office due to a new law passed last winter by the Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Matt Mead. The governor appointed an administrator to oversee the department. Hill, a Republican, has challenged the constitutionality of the law. She filed a lawsuit in the Wyoming Supreme Court and a decision is pending.
According to advocates of the law, the Legislature did right and it was required because Hill was delaying education reform efforts and doing a poor job of running the department.
House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said the committee will be meeting from Monday through Wednesday in Cheyenne. The committee seeks information about the handling of federal funds and personnel issues during Hill’s tenure.
“We just want to find out what happened and follow the legislative process for that,” Lubnau said. “This isn’t adversarial. We’re just asking people what happened.”
According to Lubnau, conversation about possible impeachment proceedings against Hill would come after all the evidence has been heard. He noted that the committee currently is focusing on fact-finding.
The committee’s hearing will focus on topics including budgeting and administrative activities, state involvement with Fremont County School District 38 and the department’s response to legislative directives. Sixteen witnesses, including Hill, have been scheduled to testify under oath.
Hill thinks some of the witnesses are biased against her. Hill said she is disappointed she won’t be allowed to question witnesses directly.
“We see a list of hand-picked people, many of whom are being asked to testify concerning things about which they have no first-hand knowledge,” Hill said in a media release. “More troublesome is how some of these folks have shown clear bias in the past and now may be using this as a stage to further their personal agenda.”
Hill is planning to draft questions during the upcoming testimony. She will try to get committee members to pose those questions to the witnesses.
Lubnau said legislators have no plan to attack the superintendent.
“We had complaints as a body from the members of the education committee who weren’t getting the information they needed and a large number of current and former Department of Education employees who were telling the Legislature about things that needed to be investigated,” Lubnau said.
In June last year, Hill said allegations of mismanagement against her are in reality a retaliation for her attempts to block the adoption of the Common Core Standards in the state. According to John Celock of the Huffington Post, Hill is accusing Governor Matt Mead of a politically-motivated attack meant to hinder her efforts to keep Wyoming’s education system out of federal control.