Embattled Wyoming superintendent seeks state records

2013-08-03T13:12:00Z 2013-11-19T16:34:07Z Embattled Wyoming superintendent seeks state recordsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
August 03, 2013 1:12 pm  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Embattled Wyoming schools Superintendent Cindy Hill wants access to state records about her office and says she'll sue if they're not released.

Hill has asked for all emails and letters from several employees in the governor's office and the state Department of Education. She also requested all department contracts, contract extensions and other purchasing agreements since 2008.

Hill said the information is needed so she can defend herself as lawmakers begin an investigation of allegations raised against her. A legislative committee is investigating whether she misused federal funds when she ran the agency, as well as other issues raised in a recent inquiry report.

State officials have called Hill's document request overbroad.

"A broad request of this sort captures tens of thousands of documents that must then be reviewed to assure that no confidential information is disclosed and to determine whether disclosure of the information is prohibited by law," wrote Carol Statkus, general counsel for Gov. Matt Mead, in a July 19 response to Hill.

Bruce Moats, an attorney representing Hill, sent another request Thursday. It asks that priority be given to documents that relate to "Hill, the Department of Education employees, contractors or consultants, Senate File 104, the Inquiry Team investigation or any of the allegations or issues contained therein."

Moats added that the documents could be released piecemeal instead of waiting for all of them to be inspected.

He asked that the "priority" documents be released by Aug. 14 and the rest by Aug. 23, and said that if the state does not think those dates are acceptable, he would consider bringing the issue before a district court judge. Time is a critical issue because a legislative panel is starting its investigation into Hill next week, he said.

The Select Investigative Committee is tasked with looking into the charges against Hill that were included in the Governor's Inquiry Team Report.

The report included charges that Hill misspent federal money, abused state resources and created a hostile work environment as the head of the Department of Education.

The committee could recommend whether impeachment charges should be brought against Hill.

Moats, who specializes in public-records issues, said the information is needed because Hill "must and will play a key role in getting answers" during the investigation.

"Who else will present the other side in the committee's work?" he wrote. "She must be armed with documents and information necessary to fully present her side and cannot be expected to wait to see if the Legislature takes the extraordinary step of initiating impeachment."

Jim Angell, executive director of the Wyoming Press Association, said Hill's request should be treated the same as a media request or any request from a private citizen.

"Public documents are public documents, regardless of who is asking for it," he said. "Every member of the public is entitled to see public records, and it just so happens this is coming from someone who needs it to put up a defense."

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