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The snake consuming itself

Jul 21, 2013 - Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

q Some Wyoming legislators have rushed headlong into the very acts they claim State Superintendent Hill is guilty of.

Perhaps the name Uroboros doesn't ring any bells with you, but the idea of a snake swallowing its own tail as it consumes itself is one of the most enduring images of the medieval period.

Since man first experimented with metals in the depths of antiquity, alchemists have dreamed of converting base metal into gold. The Uroboros was their most common symbol. While that process consumed scientific thought in the late Middle Ages and through the Renaissance, it has experienced a revival of sorts right here Wyoming, albeit in the political realm.

Much of the hoopla over the fetid Senate File 0104 that stripped State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill of her duties has died away, just as the "good ol' boys" in the Wyoming Legislature hoped it would. But these guys have been busy in the interim, not content to sit on their heels. Some have rushed headlong into the very acts they claimed Hill is guilty of.

There is not enough space in several dozen columns to write about the questionable ethics, bouts of personal interest and downright greed that now consume education in Wyoming but here are a few tidbits.

After not only passing audits conducted by the state and private consultants but being applauded for sound financial practices, Hill's department was investigated once again by Rawlins attorney Catherine MacPherson in a legislatively funded action Hill calls a witch hunt. MacPherson's $150,000 investigation proved fruitless aside from claims of not enough birthday cake for everyone at a party and an additional claim that a WDE employee did nothing on a flight in the state plane to Jackson.

The question no one has asked WDE Special Education Director Tiffany Dobler (who made the claim of doing nothing) is why she traveled all the way from Cheyenne to Jackson and never bothered to meet or work with the Teton County School District Special Education Department while she was there. Perhaps a little self-discipline and earnestness in her new position would have made this trip worthwhile.

On the subject of state sponsored air travel, the "good ol' boys" have made a lot of noise about Ms. Dobler's do-nothing flight, but they don't seem to have a problem in using the state plane as their personal taxi service around the state.

According to the travel itinerary for the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees retreat in Sheridan from July 15-19, the UW plane and the Wyoming state jet will make 30 separate flights to ferry board members, legislators and persons of interest (read that value) to a dinner at the Powder Horn resort in Sheridan disguised as a meeting.

The purpose of this dinner you might ask? The answer is simple: to raise salaries for University of Wyoming employees. It's a lobbying junket complete with free air taxi service across the expanse of the Cowboy State, and some key players in the Cindy Hill saga are all playing a part in it.

According to the itinerary, on Tuesday morning the UW plane flew seven people to Sheridan at 10:30 a.m., returned to Laramie, and flew an additional five passengers back to Sheridan at noon after returning an empty aircraft to Laramie for this second taxi run.

The Wyoming state jet had similar duties all week, with the prime example being a Thursday afternoon flight from Cheyenne that began with Wyoming Senate President Tony Ross hopping onboard at 4:10 p.m. for the arduous 44 mile flight to Laramie. In Laramie the plane picked up Sen. Phil Nicolas and Rep. Kermit Brown and arrived in Sheridan just in time for the trio to have dinner at Frackelton's. The plane returned the esteemed delegation to Laramie at 10:15 that evening.

While on the subject of Laramie, particularly charter schools in the Albany County School District, Nicholas has been a busy man. In an unprecedented act of earmarking chutzpah, legislative watchdogs report that Nicholas apparently inserted a $4 million footnote into an unrelated piece of legislation that appropriated money for one of his clients, the Snowy Range Academy, to purchase land in east Laramie. It seems that no assessment or appraisals were made on the property owned by Robert Blume on the site of the present Snowy Range Academy in the old Wal-Mart building on Grand Avenue.

The state has been paying a $250,000 annual lease on the property and won't gain full control of the site until 2016, when Blume's contracts with Staples and the Dollar Store expire.

To finish off this latest round of hypocrisy, House Speaker Tom Lubnau wasn't happy with the clean audits and sketchy investigations of Hill already completed so he appears ready to empower the House Rules Committee to hire itself as special investigators in yet another round of witch hunting. He's made it easy for the rest of the Legislature to join in as well. Lawmakers apparently will get a full per diem if they choose to watch the proceedings from home on the Internet.

Maybe the alchemists had it all wrong. Perhaps they should have tried taking gold and turning it into worthless base metal. It seems to work just fine for much of our elected leadership.

Only 12 months to the primary.

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Editor's note: Ranger columnist Randy Tucker is a retired Wyoming educator and administrator.

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