Wyoming House speaker recommends special committee

2013-06-24T14:17:00Z 2013-07-17T07:30:06Z Wyoming House speaker recommends special committeeThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 24, 2013 2:17 pm  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming House Speaker Tom Lubnau is recommending that the chamber form a special committee to conduct its own investigation into how the state Education Department operated under Superintendent Cindy Hill.

Lubnau sent an email Monday to the 59 other members of the state House, asking for their thoughts on how to proceed following a report from an inquiry team appointed by Gov. Matt Mead on the department's operations and management practices.

The most troubling information the report found involved possible misuse of federal money for unauthorized programs and trips in the state plane while under Hill's administration. That has raised discussion of possible impeachment proceedings against Hill, who has since been removed as head of the agency.

"We obviously have a problem with behavior and otherwise and figuring out the best course of action to address the problem is what the committee would do," Lubnau said in a telephone interview Monday. "Impeachment would be one of a myriad of options that the committee could suggest to the whole body."

Under the Wyoming Constitution, the House is responsible for impeaching any elected official, while the state Senate conducts a trial if the House approves impeachment.

In his email to House members, Lubnau said the House can do nothing, appoint a special committee to investigate further or call a special session.

Lubnau said he doesn't favor doing nothing because the people of Wyoming deserve answers and lawmakers have not been provided all the information that the governor's inquiry team found. The inquiry report contained a confidential section that has not been released to lawmakers and the public and also did not make any conclusions or recommendations.

On the other hand, Lubnau said he advised against calling a special session of the Legislature, saying it is premature to talk about or begin impeachment proceedings because lawmakers don't have all the information they need.

A special committee could call witnesses, allow Hill and her representatives to ask questions and subpoena the confidential information.

"On an issue this important, I believe the people of the state of Wyoming are entitled to conclusions, after an airing of evidence," Lubnau said in his email.

Lubnau noted in the telephone interview that the Legislature has empaneled special committees in the past to look into various issues — most recently the state fuels tax and carbon sequestration. But he acknowledged that investigating a statewide elected official is rather unique situation that requires careful handling.

"If I have my choice in the matter we'll proceed very, very slowly, and very deliberately, and very prudently and we're not going to take any precipitous action without thinking about it first," he said.

Hill has said if any further examination of the inquiry report is done, she looked forward to a fair and open process.

Hill, a Republican, was elected superintendent of public instruction in 2010.

However, in just two years her management of the Education Department led the GOP-controlled Legislature and Mead, a Republican, to enact a new law this past winter that removed the superintendent as head of the department in favor of a director appointed by the governor. Hill remains superintendent of public instruction, although with greatly reduced powers and duties.

Hill is challenging the law in the state Supreme Court.

An attempt by the Wyoming Constitution Party to refer the law to a statewide vote failed to collect enough signatures this spring.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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