Wyoming schools chief Cindy Hill makes brief visit to Education Department

2014-03-11T08:00:00Z 2014-04-01T11:31:04Z Wyoming schools chief Cindy Hill makes brief visit to Education DepartmentBy JOAN BARRON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
March 11, 2014 8:00 am  • 

CHEYENNE -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill returned briefly to the offices of the Wyoming Department of Education on Monday, but went no further than the receptionist's desk.

Later that afternoon, she again called on Gov. Matt Mead to allow her to resume her duties as head of the department.

Hill started the day by greeting supporters on the sidewalk outside the Hathaway building in the capitol complex. As promised, she was headed to the Education Department to take back her office.

Her visit was short.

She took the elevator to the second floor, where she addressed a dozen or so of her supporters who had followed her into the building.

Meanwhile, two of her staff members were meeting nearby behind a closed door to the office of Richard Crandall, the education department director who was appointed last summer by Gov. Matt Mead to replace Hill.

A short while later, John Masters, her chief of staff, and Sam Shumway, came out of the room.

Asked by Hill if the governor had decided to follow the state constitution, Masters said, "Not yet."

Attorney General Peter Michael, Masters said, has advised Crandall to remain as director pending an order from Laramie County District Judge Thomas Campbell.

Ruling on a lawsuit filed by Hill, the Wyoming Supreme Court in a 3-2 decision in late January threw out as unconstitutional a 2013 law that removed Hill as Education Department administrator and left her with mostly ceremonial duties.

The Supreme Court recently denied the state's petition to rehear the case or to clarify its majority opinion. The matter was returned to Judge Campbell for a final order. A hearing on the matter is set for March 18.

Hill last week announced that she had waited long enough and claimed the governor and others were plotting to delay any final action in the case. After she and her staff left the department Monday they traveled in a black SUV to the courthouse to check on whether Campbell had issued an order yet.

The judge has been busy presiding over a murder trial.

During a 4 p.m. teleconference, Hill reiterated her claim that Mead intends to block progress in the case.

"As it stands right now, the matter remains at the feet of the governor. The governor and his attorney continue to delay implementation of the Supreme Court ruling," Hill said.

Mead said Monday he is guided by a letter from Attorney General Peter Michael that explains the steps necessary to bring the matter to a close.

"It is puzzling, if the superintendent believes this matter is actually resolved with nothing more than the Supreme Court decision, that she went to the district court today," Mead said through his press secretary, Renny MacKay.

More than two dozen Hill supporters, many of them members of the Tea Party movement, gathered Monday morning in front of the Hathaway Building to cheer on the superintendent. The first one to appear was Glee Folsom, from Seattle, Wash. She carried a black sign that read "Law Shold (sic) Matter."

Folsom is house-sitting in Cheyenne for her military son while he is on assignment.

"I heard what's happened to your constitution and I'm appalled," Folsom said. "It's terrible what's happening out here. I'm surprised the whole city isn't here."

Among the supporters were Kerry and Clara Power, of Wheatland, who joined Hill in filing the lawsuit that challenged the 2013 law.

"It's been a long journey," Clara Powers said. "Maybe they'll make our vote good now. I don't know."

Mike and Mary Ann Pyatt drove from Glenrock to support Hill.

"We'd like to see the governor act as a statesman and welcome her as he should, but we doubt that he will. We would like to see Crandall pack his bags and go back to Arizona," Mike Pyatt said.

M. Lee Hasenauer, a Laramie County commissioner and Tea Party organizer said, "Cindy won that office for four years. I don't want them to stall this thing out until the election."

Hill has said she intends to run for governor on the Republican ticket this year to oppose Mead, also a Republican, who is seeking a second term.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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