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After release of critical report, Hill impeachment discussed

Jun 20, 2013 - By Bob Moen, The Associated Press

The prospect of impeaching state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill is being discussed by some lawmakers in the wake of an inquiry into state Department of Education operations during her two-year administration of the agency.

"I think at this stage it's probably premature to talk about impeachment until everybody has a chance to digest it and think everything through, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out," House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said Wednesday.

Hill said the report was superficial and inaccurate and decried what she described slanted news reporting.

Lubnau said he would not initiate impeachment proceedings unless a "significant number" of House members expressed a desire for him to do so.

Under the Wyoming Constitution, the state House is the sole authority for impeaching a state officeholder for "high crimes and misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office," while the state Senate would conduct any impeachment trial following the House's action.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Hill, who is attending a conference of state school administrators in Washington, D.C., didn't respond to a question about the impeachment prospects, choosing to instead to

discourage what she said was one-sided news articles about the inquiry report.

In a statement released Tuesday, Hill said if any further examination of the report is done, she looked forward to a fair and open process.

Hill, a Republican, was elected superintendent of public instruction in 2010. In her first two years of her four-year term, she has openly sparred with Republican Gov. Matt Mead and members of the GOP-controlled state Legislature over how she was administering the Education Department.

This past winter, the Legislature and Mead enacted a new law removing the superintendent as head of the department in favor of a director appointed by the governor. Hill was removed from the department offices and saw her duties and powers drastically reduced. Hill is challenging the law in court.

The inquiry released this week through the governor's office details a number of concerns from Education Department employees, including misuse of federal money, improper hiring and firing practices, incomplete accounting for how money was spent, nepotism and bizarre management practices by Hill and her top aides. In the report, Hill defended her management or said she was unaware of specific problems and concerns.

"There are a lot of things in that report that cause me great concern as an elected official and as a citizen of the state of Wyoming," Lubnau said.

Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson and who ardently opposed the law changing the superintendent's duties, said the only allegation in the report that could invoke possible impeachment proceedings is misuse of funds.

"But that allegation would have to be proven and in the context of impeachment, misuse of funds is usually in the context of taking public funds for private use," Gingery, a lawyer, said. "Many of the allegations regarding misuse of funds deal more with spending money for educational programs but using the wrong budget line item or using federal funds when state funds should have been expended, though still serious allegations that should be taken seriously."

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