A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949


Jan 25, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

In destroying the state superintendent, legislators are leaving the public in the dark

In the bill that would render the office of the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction powerless, the votes were there in the Wyoming Senate, which passed the legislation 20-10. The determined old guard at the Capitol has put on a full-court press, first to speed the legislation through the process before all else, and more recently to dismiss any and all opposition to the measure through a series of sound-alike interviews and look-alike letters which as much as say "this is a done deal, so don't bother objecting."

This week it moved to the Wyoming House, where the same sort of irresistible force has been applied. The bill raced from first reading to second to third with breathtaking speed, the better to render State Superintendent Cindy Hill inert as quickly as possible, perhaps even the day after the bill is sprinted to the governor's desk.

That could be as soon as tomorrow.

When is the last time we heard of a bill taking effect the moment it has passed, except in a time of dire emergency, such as disaster relief? The typical starting date is July 1, so as to give the affected agencies, departments and staff time to adjust to the coming changes, and for the public to be informed of them before they arrive.

Not this time. The strong impression is that the structure and methodology of this landmark transfer of power from an elected executive to a legislatively controlled staff member already had been set up behind the curtain, needing only the governor's signature to leap into action.

By now the strongest case against the power grab -- that it usurps the result of the 2010 election and, in turn, the will and intent of the voters -- has been made forcefully in many quarters. The legislators, themselves ensconced in office only through the good graces of the same voters, have circled the wagons, intent on riding out the discontent through the strength of their conviction that Cindy Hill must be obliterated.

Is it really so urgent? Perhaps it is that bad. Perhaps she is that bad. Perhaps this is, indeed, the single most-important issue facing our Legislature this winter, so important that typical protocol and precedent must be set aside.

But if that is so, then why can't the public see the full evidence of it? Instead of the whisper campaign, why not an open airing of the problem? Instead of winks, nods and innuendo, why not come out with whatever it is that she supposedly has done to warrant this upheaval in state government?

If the justification is there, then why not reveal it? It actually would make the job of ruining her much easier for those who would do the ruining.

If she's that bad, then show us why. Otherwise, the same sort of whisper campaign very well might turn in the other direction -- if not now, then before long.

Perhaps worst of all, this bludgeoning, bullying process amounts to the willful, determined and public destruction of a human being's reputation and professional standing. That is a step that ought to be reserved for the criminal and the corrupt. In a court of law, even the worst offender is afforded the right to face his or her accuser before the public.

There are rules of evidence, rules of discovery, rules of civil procedure, all intended to ensure that a quorum of fairness is in place to support either conviction or acquittal, and so that the public can be assured that due process was practiced, observed and administered. The Legislature has similar procedures in place, or at least is supposed to.

The Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction, for whom 113,000 Wyoming citizens voted in 2010, was entitled to due process. In a day or two, when this is over, it will be hard for her destroyers to claim that she received it.

If you'd like to weigh in with your representatives one last time, refer to the instructions elsewhere on this page. But don't count on changing anything. The slaughter is on schedule -- because the slaughter has the votes.

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