Schools chief may meet with lawmakers on Friday

2013-07-08T23:45:00Z 2013-08-07T08:32:14Z Schools chief may meet with lawmakers on FridayBy JOAN BARRON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
July 08, 2013 11:45 pm  • 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill is expected to show up at a meeting of legislative leaders Friday to be sure she gets a fair shake in a new investigation.

The House and Senate leaders, sitting as the Legislature's Management Council, will decide whether to impanel a House committee to investigate information in a recent report that said, among other things, that she may have misused federal funds when she ran the state Department of Education.

They also will decide who will sit on the panel if it is approved. House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, has asked the Legislature Management Council for the investigation. He wants the panel to include members of the House Rules and Procedures Committee.

In an earlier letter to Lubnau, Hill objected to the plan on the grounds that all members of the House Rules committee voted for Senate File 104 in this year's legislative session.

That law stripped Hill of her authority over the state Department of Education and placed it under a new director appointed by the governor.

The bill left Hill with a separate office and staff and general supervisory duties over education. Hill claims she cannot get a fair hearing before the House Rules Committee. To insure her due process, she asked for an investigatory committee that includes House members who voted on both sides of the bill.

In a letter released Monday, Lubnau said that SF 104 "had little or nothing to do with whether or not you have violated the public trust, despite the spin to the contrary."

The bill was a department reorganization that was long overdue, he said.

The investigative committee, he said, is solely about Hill's conduct.

He said he suggested assigning the task to the House Rules and Procedures Committee to avoid another lawsuit or threat of one.

He noted the historical precedent of using the House Rules Committee in previous similar matters.

Although Lubnau said he has complete confidence in the committee, he said he believes the management council will be amendable to any constructive suggestion Hill may have.

Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, is head of the Legislature's Management Council, which is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Friday in the Capitol Building in Cheyenne.

The purpose of the Legislature's investigative committee is to follow up on a recent inquiry led by Rawlins attorney Cathy MacPherson.

The team issued an 185-page report that contained accounts of possible misuse of the state airplane, improper spending and employee complaints of a hostile workplace. But it contained no recommendations or conclusions.

Hill has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing on her part.

Her lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of SF 104 is pending before the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, no part of a confidential report compiled by McPherson's team, has been released to the public.

Two other audits, including one that may involved the U.S. Department of Education, have yet to be started.

Hill, who has support from the tea party movement, has about 18 months left in her first elected term as state school superintendent.

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