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State's delays on Hill's reinstatement called a 'detour,' by staff

Feb 3, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Members of the senior leadership team for Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill said they were confused by Attorney General Peter Michael's decision Thursday to request rehearing of a Wyoming Supreme Court ruling that a law redefining Hill's duties is unconstitutional.

"I'd say I don't understand it," said John Masters, Hill's deputy superintendent.

"Maybe when they file the brief and their motion, I'll understand it better."

Michael has 15 days to file a petition for rehearing, complete with arguments stating his case.

No easy task

Masters said the state will have to show that the ruling was made based on false information, for example, or that the court's decision inadvertently modified some other law.

"There are kind of high hurdles to overcome," he said. "It's not simply, 'I didn't like the result, can you help me out?' There has to be something pretty basic."

In his experience, Masters said, courts don't retry cases unless a rehearing is necessary.

"It's a big effort," he said. "So I don't know what the AG has in mind. ... It may be that there is some good, compelling reason for this. I just haven't struck upon it myself."

Cooperation

Masters said Hill's staff attempted communication with Gov. Matt Mead shortly after the Supreme Court's 3-2 decision was released Tuesday, striking down Senate File 104.

"We had a letter to the governor's office," Masters said. "We'd made contact with them saying, 'Let's cooperate to put Cindy back in office as head of the Department (of Education)."

SF104 was signed into law last year, transferring most of Hill's duties to a new director of education appointed by Gov. Matt Mead. Hill served Mead with a lawsuit the day the bill was signed, and a district judge sent the case directly to the Supreme Court for further action.

Masters said he hasn't seen a response to the Hill team's letter, but he said had a phone conversation Tuesday - the day of the decision - indicating that the governor would wait for advice from Michael.

"They agreed that at some point in the future it might be wise for us to cooperate and collaborate," Masters said.

On Thursday, Michael announced he would seek a rehearing in the case.

Mead was in northeast Wyoming on Wednesday, and he told the Gillette News Record that the court's decision created more questions.

"They also said the Legislature is in charge of defining the duties, but there's limitations on it," Mead said. "I think those are the questions we still have, is what does all that mean?"

Limbo

Masters said Michael's petition represents a "detour" for Hill, who already was waiting for the Supreme Court's decision to be handed down to Laramie County District Court for further action.

If Michael's request is granted, the court might have to stay the effect of its own decision until a rehearing is complete.

"It's not a surprise that we'll be waiting a while," Masters said.

His team spent last week making plans for the transition back to the Wyoming Department of Education, but Masters said the process has been difficult without open communication from the governor's office.

"We're doing that kind of unilaterally," he said. "We don't necessarily know how the governor and his set of agencies fit into that equation. ... It's kind of like one hand trying to clap."

Masters said he and others involved in education at the state level are in limbo for now. Hill's employees had been working under rules defined by SF104, which has now been deemed unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruling also would appear to eliminate WDE director Richard Crandall's position, which was created by the legislation.

Crandall's workers are upset and looking for new jobs this week according to a story reported by the Associate Press.

On Wednesday, Crandall is reported to have sent an e-mail to his employees outlining their due-process rights and identifying who they could go to with employment concerns.

About 10 current employees testified against Hill earlier this month during a legislative investigation into whether she committed any impeachable offenses when she oversaw the agency in 2011 and 2012, the AP reports.

Hill is a Republican who announced she is running for governor this year.

Related content:
 
Senate File 104