WDE report stirs impeachment debate

By Sarah Pridgeon

Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill may face impeachment in the wake of an independent inquiry into the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) under her leadership. In a report authorized by Governor Matt Mead, Hill is charged with breaches of protocol that include misappropriation of funds and creating a hostile workplace.
Governor Mead assembled the independent inquiry team in February, as the infamous “Hill Bill” took center stage at the Legislative Session. The only explicit direction given was to, “find the truth, and we’ll have to let the chips fall where they may.”
“You always hold your breath with something like this,” comments Senator Ogden Driskill. “We’d been told by the Leadership some of what was going on but, because it’s personnel issues, they’re not allowed to talk about specifics.”
At time of responding, Driskill had not yet read the full 180-page report due to commitments in Washington, D.C. Much of its content, however, is familiar to him.
“Often when you get into tough personnel issues, be it local or on the level I was at, the leadership is not able without breaking the law themselves to tell you specifics,” he says.
“All they can say is: trust me, something bad is happening. That’s really hard because you have to place a lot of trust that the leadership is being honest with you.”
Representative Mark Semlek believes the format of the report has provided clear and convincing evidence of what was occurring within the WDE.
“The interview process of staff members and their accusations and the follow-up response by the superintendent or her administrative staff provided some interesting and sometimes troubling insight on how the department confronted problem-solving and decision-making processes,” he says.
“I was not shocked at the accusations in the report, but I was disappointed in the administrative style and poor decision-making at the upper management level.”
Semlek, too, was generally aware of the accusations, particularly those involved with Hill’s reluctance to advance the accountability program the Legislature had passed with the expectation her department would implement it by law. He believes many of the alleged improprieties were a case of bad judgment and poor decision making, though he defers to legal interpretation as to whether they were criminal or illegal.
For example, Semlek views accusations that Hill invited staff to travel with her on the state plane to tap into their budgets for air travel shows decision-making that was in some cases, “inappropriate, unnecessary and a waste of tax dollars.”