CASPER, Wyo. — State schools chief Cindy Hill responded Wednesday to concerns that her pending return to the Wyoming Department of Education would generate retaliation against employees who testified against her in an ongoing investigation.
Hill was stripped of much of her power last year by a law that put a governor-appointed director in charge of the agency. Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.
Some legislators have expressed concern that employees may leave the agency if Hill returns and that employees could be fearful of retaliation after speaking out against her, she said.
Fourteen current and former department employees testified in Cheyenne last month about alleged financial mismanagement at the agency under Hill’s watch.
In an inquiry released last summer, several dozen employees detailed the improper use of the state plane and complained about team-building techniques that made them uncomfortable.
Those concerns are “unfounded” and “designed to alarm and incite the many good employees of the Department,” Hill wrote in a letter to Wyoming lawmakers.
In her letter, Hill urged lawmakers not to adopt national performance standards. She said she would ensure that the department complies in “a timely manner” with legislative directives.
Rep. Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne, a member of the special House committee investigating Hill, said lawmakers had heard concerns about mismanagement at the agency from “a lot” of employees.
“One paragraph in a letter is not going to make all those concerns go away,” Throne said. “We have to have concrete steps and concrete commitments.”
Rep. Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, chairman of the investigative committee and state Speaker of the House, said the investigation is on hold, either until the committee receives a copy of the results of a federal audit into the department or until after the legislative budget session, which begins Monday and lasts 20 days.
The state has until Feb. 12 to file a petition to rehear the case, according to court rules.