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Hill: Wyoming's citizens deserve answers on costly state investigation

Dec 18, 2013 - Cindy Hill, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction

Editor:

On I sent the following letter to the members of the Wyoming Legislature regarding the work of the Select Investigative Committee:

Dear Legislator,

I have recently had the opportunity to visit with many of you. A question I often am asked is "How are things going with the investigative committee?" Although I have not been permitted to be as involved in the work of the committee as I had hoped, I want to share the information that I do have. To that end, I have outlined a few questions that I am commonly asked, followed by information I have related to each of those questions.

For your information, I am also attaching copies of all my correspondence related to this investigation. I hope this will help you understand what has been going on and will be used as reference as you discuss this work with fellow legislators and respond to questions from constituents.

1. How much is this costing us?

Let me tell you what I know:

- In 2012, the legislature approved $250,000 to be paid to a "liaison." This money was used to collect information and prepare a report which ultimately became one of the justifications for Senate File 104 (the bill that removed me as head of the Wyoming Department of Education. My staff's timely response to that report provided approximately 500 pages of facts refuting each point in the "liaison" report.

- You will recall that after passage of SF104 and my announcement to run for governor, the budget bill included a footnote appropriating $150,000 to fund an investigation of my actions as Wyoming Superintendent. Cathy MacPherson was hired, a team was assembled, and the "MacPherson Report" was drafted.

- An additional $250,000 was provided to the Department of Audit to conduct an independent audit of the WDE as deemed necessary by the Governor. The purpose of this audit was to examine issues relating to the transfer of duties pursuant to SF104. I do not know if this audit was ever performed.

- On July 12, the Management Council was told it needed to approve $110,000 for the creation and work of a select investigative committee and its subcommittees to conduct additional investigations. At that time it was expected the work would be completed by September 30.

- On October 15, the Management Council approved another $100,000 to hire counsel and other special contractors for the select investigative committee through the end of the year.

The total appropriated, so far, seems to be $860,000. This amount does not include the countless hours spent by state employees, legislative staff, and others. My staff and the staff at the WDE have been required to direct significant time and energy to interviews, preparing and producing documents, and focusing on these investigations. Also, I understand that attorneys from the AG's office have been actively engaged in these investigations, and it has been reported that there are five LSO attorneys currently working full-time on this investigation. It has been, and continues to be, a distraction for all of us from other important work.

2. Has the work been completed or is it near completion?

Unfortunately, I have no help for you on this point. I can tell you what I know:

- Both my staff and I have cooperated fully when requested, providing all documents and information requested. We have been completely forthcoming and transparent.

- If you review my correspondence with Speaker Lubnau, you will see that he initially referred to a "myriad" of "documented" complaints. Recently, he was quoted as saying that there are now only a "handful" of issues remaining. I have repeatedly asked to be advised of what the "issues" are and to be allowed to review any supporting documentation. As of the writing of this letter, I have not been provided either. I am confident that if I am made aware of the issues, my staff and I would quickly and efficiently resolve any concerns.

3. Where are the substantive issues that justify the huge allocation of state resources?

I often hear said, "Surely, all this money spent on investigations has produced evidence of some wrongdoing?" They ask, "Where is the smoking gun?"

For months, the investigators have had full access to all documents and personnel of my office and the WDE. As I indicated above, despite multiple requests, I have not been told what the specific allegations are, nor have I been provided any documented evidence of wrongdoing. We must stop relying on hushed-tone conversations where rumor, innuendo, and suspicion prevail. We all deserve to be told what this is about and shown real evidence.

4. Has the process been fair?

I will let you decide whether you believe this process has been fair. From the beginning, Speaker Lubnau promised due process. There was talk of fairness, impartiality, and transparency in the committee's work. The meetings were to be open to the public and streamed over the internet. Here are the facts:

Only one of the four subcommittees has had a public meeting. It was held in Buffalo and was not streamed on the web. Nevertheless, all three subcommittees reported on work they had been doing -- presumably in private. The whole committee has met twice. Both times, the committee spent the bulk of the time in executive session.

- Despite multiple requests, Speaker Lubnau has refused to provide notice of the claims or copies of any supporting documents.

- I have offered on a number of occasions to make myself and my staff available to answer any questions the committee might have. Although I do not know what questions might exist, I am confident that we have answers. My offers have continually been rejected or ignored.

- Recently I learned that the lawyers hired by the committee will be meeting with witnesses in preparation for their testimony in future meetings. I was informed these meeting would be conducted privately. Concerned about the integrity of the process, I asked to be allowed to be present at those meetings, or that the meetings be recorded in some fashion. My requests were denied.

I suggest that you are entitled to know the answers to the questions raised above. Your neighbors and friends will be asking these questions and they deserve to know how and why the money is being spent. If you have additional questions or concerns I am happy to meet with you to discuss them. I have nothing to hide, and I think you and I can agree that this process needs to be brought to a completion.

Thanks again for considering these questions. For those of you who follow up, I thank you on behalf of the people of Wyoming who expect -- and deserve -- answers.

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