CHEYENNE - Wyoming public schools Superintendent Cindy Hill says she cooperated with an inquiry into the operation of the state Education Department, which she administered until being stripped of the job earlier this year, but she is declining to discuss specifics until the inquiry is concluded.
"I'm not orchestrating this, the governor is and Cathy MacPherson. They know what their plan is, so we're just trying to accommodate them," Hill said.
In February, Gov. Matt Mead appointed MacPherson, a longtime Wyoming attorney in Rawlins, to look into concerns about how the agency was being run in recent years under Hill and previous superintendents. Mead has said agency employees had raised misgivings about personnel, budget and other issues.
The concerns came to a head this past winter when the Wyoming Legislature and Mead enacted major changes in how the state's K-12 education system is run. The biggest shift replaced the statewide elected superintendent as head of the Education Department with a director appointed by the governor.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hill said she doesn't know the reason for the inquiry but said that others noted it was announced soon after she decided to run for governor in 2014. Both Mead and Hill are Republicans.
"The governor did this for whatever reason. He certainly never had a conversation with me about it," Hill said. "But people do all kinds of strange things. You start realizing politically why people do what they do, and you just deal with it."
Mead has said he expects a report on the inquiry this month.
Sponsors of the new law said Hill was hindering school reform efforts because her agency was not carrying out specific tasks. Hill contends she met all the tasks even though a legislative liaison report documented many instances where the department had failed to do so.
While the state superintendent remains one of five elected state officers, including the governor, the change occurred in the middle of Hill's four-year term.
Hill is challenging the constitutionality of the new law in a lawsuit that is awaiting a hearing before the state Supreme Court. In addition, a petition is being circulated around the state by citizens to refer the new law to a statewide vote.