- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The special legislative committee investigating Wyoming schools Superintendent Cindy Hill released its final report on Wednesday, formally rebuking her and concluding she willfully violated state personnel laws and ignored state budget language aimed at preventing her from spending money on unauthorized teacher-training programs.

“Cindy Hill, for whatever reason, chose not to follow the law,” the committee states in the conclusion of the 120-page report.

The report states that, after Hill took office in 2011, she fired or ran off most of the senior employees at the Wyoming Department of Education who knew how its budgetary, financial and human-resource processes operated.

“She replaced those long-term employees with persons who were loyal to her, but had little or no experience managing an entire state agency,” the report states. “She refused to ask for legislative appropriations for her programs. She refused to perform her duties with fidelity.”

Hill on Wednesday dismissed the committee report as a political “smear campaign” aimed at discrediting her as she seeks the Republican nomination for governor in the Aug. 19 primary.

“A ‘rebuke’ means that they are conceding that I did nothing wrong. It’s that simple,” Hill said in a written statement. “They spent two years and $1.3 million so that they could ‘rebuke’ someone?”

Hill stated that now the Legislature is giving up on its efforts to remove her, she wants to know when she will be getting a formal apology.

Hill alleged that staffers for Gov. Matt Mead, whom she’s challenging in the primary, were heavily involved in the smear campaign against her. Renny MacKay, spokesman for Mead, earlier this month dismissed as ridiculous Hill’s claims that the governor was working with lawmakers to discredit her.

The report is the latest salvo in years of ongoing conflict between Hill and the Legislature. Lawmakers passed, and Mead signed, a bill removing her as head of the state Education Department last year only to see a divided Wyoming Supreme Court reinstate her early this year after finding her removal unconstitutional.

The report doesn’t make any recommendation on what should happen as a result of its conclusions. It would be up to any member of the Wyoming House of Representatives to try to push for impeachment proceedings against her. Senior lawmakers, however, have said they believe that impeachment proceedings are unlikely given that her term as superintendent expires at the end of the year.

Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, served on the special committee that drafted the report.

“The report is what it is,” Brown, the House Majority Floor Leader, said Wednesday. “It is the end result of the activities of the investigatory committee, and it does not necessarily drive anything. It is a resource for the Legislature and for individual legislators to use however they wish.”

Brown is among several lawyers who served on the special committee. Hill has filed a complaint with the Wyoming State Bar alleging that the lawyers on the panel failed to abide by professional standards in investigating her.

The report notes that the Legislature had explicitly barred Hill from continuing to spend money on a professional development program her administration had developed called “teacher-to-teacher.” It states Hill continued the program under a new name and later tried to hide the continuing funding and apparently tried to mislead the Legislature by expunging mention of it in financial reports.

The report concludes that several professional-services contracts under Hill’s tenure violated laws and policies. For example, it states Sheryl Lain, a member of Hill’s management team now running for superintendent of public instruction, “violated Wyoming’s laws and policies” by approving a contract benefiting her daughter. An attempt to reach Lain for comment Wednesday was not immediately successful.

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