- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Supreme Court decision in favor of state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill left some current employees at the Wyoming Department of Education upset and looking for new jobs, agency Director Richard Crandall said Wednesday.

Crandall said it was “heartbreaking” when news of Tuesday’s decision hit the department.

“People were just crying and sobbing, just couldn’t believe this was going to happen to them a second time,” he said.

Crandall said he canceled a planned out-of-state trip this week and will keep his office door open for employees.

On Wednesday, he sent an email to employees outlining their due-process rights and who to go to with employment concerns, he said.

About 10 current employees testified against Hill earlier this month during a legislative investigation into whether Hill committed any impeachable offenses when she oversaw the agency in 2011 and 2012.

Concerns about Hill’s administration of the department led to the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Matt Mead enacting a law last year that removed the superintendent as head of the agency. The superintendent was replaced by a director appointed by the governor.

The Supreme Court decision means Crandall’s job would be eliminated because it was created by the law.

Crandall said he has business interests he can fall back on.

“I’ll be active in education,” he said. “I’m just not sure in what capacity.”

Hill could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In remarks Tuesday after the court decision, Hill said that if everyone focuses on their education work, her return to the department should go smoothly.

“I’m asking that everyone get back to work and that we focus on what I was elected to do and what everyone else has been hired to do,” she said.

The court ruled 3-2 that the Legislature went too far in reducing the superintendent’s constitutional duties.

The law took effect a year ago in the middle of Hill’s four-year term. She was first elected in 2010.

Hill, a Republican who has announced she is running for governor this year, immediately challenged the constitutionality of the law, which kept the superintendent as one of the five statewide elected officials but with far fewer duties.

Legislative leaders who pushed the law in 2013 have not commented on the ruling.

Mead was in northeast Wyoming on Wednesday and he told the Gillette News Record that the court’s decision created more questions.

While the court ruled the law unconstitutional, Mead told the News Record, “They also said the Legislature is in charge of defining the duties, but there’s limitations on it. I think those are the questions we still have, is what does all that mean?”

Renny MacKay, Mead’s spokesman, said the governor was waiting for the attorney general to analyze the opinion.

The Legislature meets for a four-week budget session on Feb. 10.

A special state House committee has been investigating Hill’s management of the department in 2011 and 2012. The investigation is unprecedented in Wyoming and could lead to impeachment proceedings against Hill.

The committee heard testimony earlier this month about possible misuse of federal funds and state resources, nepotism and an effort to hide information from the Legislature when the agency was under Hill’s control.

Hill has denied any wrongdoing and says the investigation is a political witch hunt.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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