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Pinedale Online > News > June 2013 > Legislative Report – SF104

Albert Sommers. Photo by Albert Sommers.
Albert Sommers

On the sorting grounds. Photo by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online.
On the sorting grounds
Pinedale Online file photo.
Legislative Report – SF104
by Representative Albert Sommers, HD#20
June 27, 2013

Wednesday, July 26, 2013: Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers bringing you news from the capital on matters pending before the legislature. As you will recall, the legislature passed and the governor signed SF104, which was a bill that stripped most of the powers of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and gave those powers to a new appointed director of the Wyoming Department of Education, with the appointment being made by the governor. I voted against SF104 because I could not support the process by which the bill was brought forward, not because I believed the current system was working smoothly. The Superintendent of Public Instruction is an elected position, and I believe a bill which stripped the powers of that duly elected individual should have been done as an interim bill, which allows greater debate by the public. I also believe that bill should have been drafted as a constitutional amendment, because the citizens of Wyoming should have made the call to strip that elected position of its powers. From everything I have been told the Wyoming Department of Education has struggled under the last several superintendents, and the Cindy Hill era has been no exception. For that reason I personally support changing the Superintendent position to an appointed position, though I would rather it be appointed by the State Board of Education, but I believe that call should have been made by the voters of Wyoming not the legislature.

In February of 2013, the governor appointed a special investigator to look into concerns which had been expressed by employees of the Wyoming Department of Education about how the agency was being administered by Superintendent Hill.The inquiry team was only to ascertain the facts, and not draw conclusions, make findings, or recommendations. The team interviewed those employees who wished to express concerns, and then interviewed Superintendent Hill and her senior staff regarding those accusations. The team did not try to assess the credibility of those persons being interviewed, and did not interview employees who did not ask to be interviewed.

Last week the special investigator’s report was released to the public, consisting of 183 pages, and this report was filled with allegations of misconduct by Superintendent Hill and her senior staff. The report also included rebuttals by the Superintendent. There is another report which has not been released which deals with personnel issues, and another financial audit that is pending. The leadership of the legislature is now trying to determine what to do with this report, and some state wide newspapers obtained a flurry of e-mails between legislators concerning this issue. The questions being asked are; do the allegations in these reports justify further investigation and possible impeachment of Superintendent Hill. Impeachment has only occurred once in Wyoming’s history, and that was a judge in the 1800s. Impeachment would start in the House of Representatives, which is where I reside.

On Monday the 24th, the Speaker of the House sent out an e-mail to all representatives asking them to choose between three alternatives; do nothing, empanel a special committee to examine the issues and gather more information, or call a special session to examine the issues and choose a course of action. Another legislator suggested a fourth alternative, which was turn the special investigator’s report over to federal and county prosecutors and have them determine whether there has been any crimes committed.

I favor the last alternative. I am unconvinced that we could seat a committee in the legislature, after all that has happened, that could maintain their objectivity and render unbiased recommendations to the rest of legislature. For that reason I like the idea of putting these allegations in the hands of independent prosecutors, whose jobsare to investigate criminal activity. In my opinion, the primary reason to consider impeachment of Superintendent Hill is if she is convicted of a crime. Case law governing impeachment is fairly broad, but for me "malfeasance in office", which is the likely litmus test for impeachment, must include criminal misconduct. If SF104 had not stripped Superintendent Hill of most of her powers and the employee allegations were proven true, then a lower standard for impeachment might have swayed me. Some have stated that the report proves the necessity of SF104, but I still believe SF104 was premature, and the legislature should simply have requested the investigation the governor conducted, and then provided that information to independent prosecutors. I will keep you posted on what happens. Good bye for now.

Albert Sommers

Click on this link to listen to an audio version of this update (5:27 min mp3, 4.93MB)

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