By Associated Press - Friday, July 25, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A state lawmaker on Friday asked that the state attorney general appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Gov. Matt Mead and his staff over the handling of an investigation into state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.

However, the state attorney general denied the request, saying any such investigation would have to be done by local law enforcement.

Rep. Gerald Gay, R-Casper, said he believes Mead and his staff used state money and resources in an effort to smear a political rival. Hill is one of two people challenging Mead’s bid for a second term in the Aug. 19 GOP primary for governor.

Kari Gray, Mead’s chief of staff, responded that “this is supporters of Cindy Hill in a transparent effort to shift attention away from legislative rebuke of the superintendent.”

On Wednesday, a special state House committee released a report formally rebuking Hill and concluding she willfully violated state personnel laws and ignored state budget language aimed at preventing her from spending money on unauthorized programs.

Hill has denied any wrongdoing and has said the investigation was nothing more than an effort to smear her.

In a letter to state Attorney General Peter Michael, Gay asked that Michael appoint a special prosecutor to look for gross misconduct, misappropriation of state money and improper use of state resources.

Gay said his request for a special prosecutor was being done on behalf of a Laramie County resident, whom he declined to identify.

Since the attorney general is appointed by the governor, it’s necessary to have an independent investigator with no ties to state government, he said.

“This is by nature a tricky situation because it’s a conflict of interest for one to investigate oneself,” Gay said.

Gay said about 10 other legislators support his request. Rep. Stephen Watt, R-Rock Springs, was present Friday in support of Gay’s request.

Michael responded several hours later in a letter to Gay, noting he recently denied a similar request to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hill for the same reasons.

The Attorney General’s Office does not prosecute crimes in Wyoming except in special circumstances, which do not apply in this case, Michael wrote to Gay.

If local police or the county sheriff finds evidence of a crime, it will be referred to the local prosecutor, he said.

Gay said he would talk to the citizen who initiated the complaint, but he didn’t know if he would pursue the matter any further.

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