Law & Courts

Committee Report: Wyoming Chief Hill ‘Chose Not to Follow the Law’

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 23, 2014 2 min read
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A report by a committee of the Wyoming Legislature said that current state Superintendent Cindy Hill has “refused to perform her duties with fidelity” during much of her time in office and failed to follow both federal and state requirements in several instances.

The report from the legislature’s Select Investigative Committee, released on July 23, officially rebuked her, but stopped short of officially calling for Hill’s impeachment. However, legislators have the option to impeach her on their own, Leah Todd of the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

It is the latest in a steady string of reports that have cast a negative light on Hill, a Republican who has consistently denied any wrongdoing. Hill lost her position last year as head of the state school system due to a new law signed by Gov. Matt Mead, also a Republican, but Hill sued to get the law overturned. It was later determined to be unconstitutional by the state’s highest court. She returned to her position in April. Hill is now a Republican candidate for governor in the August primary.

Among the report’s findings:

• The committee found that Hill obstructed the state’s Accountability in Education Act, passed in 2011, the same year that she took office (she was elected in 2010). The law is intended to connect student performance with accountability measures, but the report says there were a “startling number of instances” where Hill ignored the law and expressed open contempt for it.

• Hill was also cited by the committee for implementing a new reading program at a school district without a clear funding source. The report also states that the department’s involvement with this program exceeded Hill’s power under federal law and state regulations. Under her, the department also continued operating a professional-development program called “Teacher-to-Teacher” even after the state legislature specifically cut off funding for it in its fiscal 2013 budget, according to the report.

• Hill was also cited repeatedly for creating a difficult and intimidating work environment, as well as for demands for personal loyalty from employees. State employees testified that she was suspicious of anyone who maintained a relationship with her predecessor, Jim McBride. (I have written previously about allegations that employees were afraid to go to bathrooms alone, and that Hill once brandished a cake-carving knife in a way that scared some workers, an allegation Hill specifically denied.)

Stating that it is crucial for the state chief to create a positive work environment, the report goes on to say, “Superintendent Hill failed in this management responsibility. She actively created and passively allowed a climate of fear and intimidation to permeate the Department during her administration. Her obliviousness to the toxic work environment at WDE [the Wyoming education department] only serves to heighten her failure.”

You can read the full report below:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.