By Sarah Pridgeon
Unexpected legal hurdles and a mountain of papers have brought the state’s investigation into Cindy Hill, Superintendent of Public Instruction, to a financial standstill. Tom Lubnau, Chairman of the Select Investigative Committee, has requested an additional $100,000 to sift through the information with the help of additional staff and special counsel.
The committee has now been investigating allegations of improprieties within the Wyoming Department of Education and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for two months. In response to its request for documents, Lubnau claims that hundreds of thousands of pages, not all of which appear to pertain to the investigation, have been sent over by Hill’s office.
“On the other hand, the Wyoming Department of Education has provided organized, searchable and useable responses to our requests. The contrast is stark,” he said.
“The Superintendent claims she is cooperating fully by burying the committee with reams of irrelevant documents, and only she knows her true motives.”
Though Lubnau anticipates that Hill’s supporters will “issue a hue and cry” about the funding request, he claims that staffing has become an issue. So far, the committee has relied solely on Legislative State Office staff, but according to the chairman has become overwhelmed by the complexity of the issue, the need to interview further witnesses and legal hurdles that it cannot address alone.
The documents include, for example, confidential information about school students, including medical data, which is protected through more than one privacy act. The committee has not reviewed this or any other information on the hard disk to prevent wrongful disclosure, restricting its own access to the documentation.
“The committee did not ask for any of this information in any way, shape or form,” said Lubnau.
“The committee has asked the superintendent to take another stab at production of documents, and according to news media reports, she will not do so. The committee finds itself in a complicated legal situation, created not of its own making, and needs experienced legal advice on how to proceed.”
The committee has hit additional problems during the inquiry, such as one employee’s threat to sue his peers if they share information about him. The same employee, said Lubnau, has made claims for defamatory communications.
This, along with the superintendent’s own demands for confidentiality, has created a “difficult legal scenario” that Lubnau claims will require the guidance of Special Council. As LSO staff cannot interview witnesses or provide opinions on witness testimony and the direction of the investigation, Lubnau claims that the committee has reached an impasse and cannot continue its investigation.
The committee has voted to retain the services of Bruce Salzburg, formerly the Wyoming Attorney General and now with Crowell and Moring, as Lead Special Counsel with the assistance of Rob Jarosh and other attorneys from Hirst Applegate LLP of Cheyenne.
To retain counsel, the committee has requested that the Management Council authorize an initial budget of $100,000. Lubnau noted that more may be needed as the investigation progresses.
By Sarah Pridgeon