CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A recent inquiry into how the Wyoming Department of Education operated under state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill includes information that an agency videographer was used for political purposes.
Tom Lacock said he was hired by Hill in 2011 as a videographer to tape various education-related events and practices.
However, he told an inquiry team appointed by Gov. Matt Mead that when the Legislature was debating a law to remove the superintendent as head of the Education Department, he was assigned to tape floor debate so Hill and her top aides would know who to lobby against the bill.
“He felt that that was an awful use of state equipment, the intent of which was to be used to do educational videos,” the inquiry report said.
Hill responds that the taping was merely done to document the debate for historical purposes.
“This is history. We were memorializing what was taking place,” Hill said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I haven’t seen anything historical like this happening for gosh since the Johnson County cattle wars.”
The Johnson County cattle war occurred in 1892 and involved disputes between cattle barons and small ranch owners in northern Wyoming.
Hill indicated that she didn’t use the video of the floor debate for political purposes during the session.
“We haven’t watched it,” she said.
The videotaping is among the questionable uses of resources and money under Hill raised in the inquiry. A number of employees at the agency told the inquiry that Hill misused federal money for unauthorized programs and for trips on the state airplane.
Hill has defended her administration of the agency and denied any wrongdoing.
The state House of Representatives is convening a special committee to investigate the information disclosed in the inquiry. Depending on its findings, the committee could recommend impeachment proceedings against Hill.
The videotaping was stopped when Jim Rose replaced Hill as interim director of the Education Department in March, and Lacock was reassigned to a spokesman position within the agency.
The Legislature and Mead enacted the law last January amid concerns about how Hill was running the agency and not following education reform mandates.
The law replaced the superintendent of public instruction as head of the department with a director appointed by the governor. The superintendent remains one of five statewide elected officials, including the governor, but has fewer responsibilities.
Hill is challenging the law’s constitutionality, and the state Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments in the case on Aug. 20.
Some lawmakers were aware of the agency videotaping of floor debate on the law while others were not.
“Our floor debate is public, and it’s recorded and it’s available to the public and we’re not hiding anything, so I’m not sure what the point of it was,” Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, said in an interview after the session.