Oct 6, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterWyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill disparaged moves to limit her office's powers and accused state officials of malfeasance while speaking to the Wyoming Association of County Officers convention last week in Lander.
In 2012, the Wyoming Legislature passed a law slashing the authority of the superintendent of public instruction.
Hill has filed a lawsuit arguing that the changes should not have been made.
She also has announced that she will run for governor next year.
"You need a constitutional amendment if you're going to do this," she said. "I no longer have the general supervision of public schools. ... We are in the (Wyoming) Supreme Court to see if I really am (in charge of that responsibility)."
Her legal team is confident in its case, Hill said.
At the meeting, Hill warned legislators that limiting her office's authority could be unpopular with their constituents, and she looked to history to support her statement.
Hill said the Wyoming Legislature stripped her office of its powers twice in the past, most recently in 1917. Lawmakers reversed that move two years later, she said, after a large turnover in the Wyoming House of Representatives and Senate.
"By 1919 the Legislature looked very different," she said.
Hill noted that only 11 of the 53 state senators who were in office in 1917 and eligible for re-election were still in the Senate in 1919. She encouraged her audience to "pay attention to who your representatives are."
Hill brought up the possibility that state representatives and senators might move to impeach her after a state report alleged she acted improperly and misplaced funds while in office.
During her speech she criticized the possible impeachment process, saying legislators could vote to oust her without any evidence.
More than education?
She hinted the moves against her may have to do more with policy decisions she made.
"Yes, I stepped on some toes," Hill said. "(But) I've been keeping my promises when no one's looking."
She implied that other government officials are misusing their offices by participating in questionable practices.
"There are a lot of issues that aren't being talked about that we need to talk about whenever we can," Hill said. "Sometimes it's really uncomfortable."
For example, she said a board on which she sits recently convened in an emergency meeting to authorize improvements to the state capitol building to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
During the meeting, a $100 million addition to the Herschler Building - another state government facility - was "slipped in," Hill said.
"An emergency meeting (means) 'Let's hurry up and do this before anyone knows,'" she said.
She also pointed to a land-swap deal backed by a state senator who wanted to trade a parcel for a piece of property with an impressive view of Devils Tower.
He told Hill his family had been grazing the preferred parcel for many years, and the property he was offering was not as spectacular.
Hill understood how important the land was to the senator and his family, but she said she would vote against the swap.
"I represent the people of Wyoming," she said. "When I make that vote, I'll be thinking of them."
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