- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Saying she has waited long enough, state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill vowed Thursday to resume her duties as head of the Department of Education next week.

Her announcement came more than a month after the Wyoming Supreme Court overturned a 2013 law that removed the elected superintendent as a state department head.

Legislators enacted the law after complaints about Hill’s performance, and she was moved to a separate state office building the day after the law took effect.

Hill said Gov. Matt Mead and lawmakers have had plenty of time to resolve the issue but have only stalled.

“The time for waiting and deference has long since passed,” Hill said. “I must resume my duty as required by the constitution.”

Mead said Hill’s plan is premature because the courts haven’t issued a final order that would tell the state how to resolve the superintendent’s duties.

“Otherwise I just think it’s a case of creating unnecessary chaos,” Mead said.

Hill said she will return to the agency’s main offices in Cheyenne at 8 a.m. Monday. The move could set up a conflict with Richard Crandall, who was appointed by the governor to run the education department.

“I don’t think that my moving over to the department and resuming my constitutional duties should be a problem,” Hill said.

Crandall said he would meet Hill Monday morning and she was welcome to enter the agency’s building where the general public is allowed.

But he made clear that “nobody is allowed to just walk in and take something over until the courts specifically say what the orders are.”

The state Supreme Court sided with Hill on Jan. 28 in her lawsuit challenging the law and denied a subsequent request by the state for a rehearing, However, the case won’t be resolved until a lower court issues a final ruling. Further legal proceedings and appeals could follow.

Hill said the Supreme Court decisions were enough to allow her to return to the department. She also said Mead and his attorneys were plotting further legal delays.

“These delay tactics fly in the face of the Supreme Court’s ruling,” she said. “We’re on uncharted ground, and I hope that the governor will hear my words and be responsive.”

Mead said he didn’t understand Hill’s accusation.

“She brought the lawsuit, and we haven’t gotten an order,” he said. “I don’t know how much plotting that is. We’re waiting for the court’s order.”

In a filing earlier this week, state Attorney General Peter Michael asked the district court for a conference with the judge and both sides to “identify an expeditious path forward for this case.”

On the other hand, Hill is seeking an order that would immediately restore her former duties.

Legislative leaders said the Supreme Court ruling came too late for lawmakers to address the matter during the budget session, which was wrapping up this week.

The legislative Management Council, which oversees matters when lawmakers are not in session, has directed the Joint Education Interim Committee to draft legislation to be considered during a possible special session. The education panel has a tentative deadline of April 30.

State House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said the Legislature would work to resolve the situation in compliance with the final court decision.

“We owe it to the citizens of Wyoming going forward to make sure that we have a functional, nonpolitical education department,” Lubnau said.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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