News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Legislators locking the doors
Sep 28, 2013 - By Randy Tucker
There is an unspoken belief among many rural people concerning locked doors, locked vehicles and locked gates. For generations, farmers and ranchers have shared their equipment with each other. In less prosperous times it was simple survival to share tools and tractors, but as the economy has improved, it's just a vestigial practice that still has value.
The neighbor you really have to worry about is the one who locks everything.
It's been awhile since the good ol' boys who threw out State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill have been in the news. That doesn't mean they've been idle, it's just that they prefer to do their work in the dark.
The term "standards" is all the rage in education, but evidently our elected leadership only understands a form of the concept known simply as the "double standard."
The "Select Committee," as the witch hunting group organized by Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau is formally called, has done little publicly but continues harassing Hill and her diminished department clandestinely.
The latest request is for mounds of paper and gigabytes of e-mails produced during Hill's tenure. Hill's team of five people delivered on the governor's ultimatum and produced 170,000 e-mails and an additional 30,000 (yes, 30,000) pages of documents weighing in at just over 370 pounds.
But turnabout as fair play isn't how politics are played in Cheyenne.
Who will analyze all this data? That's easy: The governor has 400 employees and the entire attorney general's office to do his handiwork. The fruitless half-million dollars the state government has already spent on fishing expeditions against Hill is just small change. With limitless resources, the attacks will continue until the people remove the protagonists late next summer.
When requests go the other way, to the governor's office or to Lubnau, they are refused. No matter the issue, his army of attorneys finds a way to claim privilege and the information remains unreachable. I guess the elite feel they can play the double-standard with immunity. Reminds you a bit of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" doesn't it? The comparison being that "some are more equal than others."
In spite of the "bob and weave" antics, the powers that be in Cheyenne can't hide everything.
Gov. Matt Mead imposed a hiring freeze earlier this year and demanded that departments within the state government reduce their expenditures by 8 percent.
Evidently that doesn't apply to the new education department carefully crafted after Senate File 104 robbed the people of the ability to determine the direction of their children's education. There have been no reductions in staffing at the WDE after the forced removal of Hill, quite the contrary.
New education director Richard Crandall now earns twice Hill's salary. A request to verify that Crandall continues to collect a salary as an Arizona legislator was ignored by the governor's office. Crandall hired an additional five staff members in his first two weeks in office and each earns a salary and compensation well in excess of $100,000 a year.
You can't discuss raises and promotions at the Wyoming Department of Education without looking carefully at the people who have recently received them.
Lubnau and company crave a "smoking gun" to put the final nail in the threatened impeachment of Hill. They cite examples of birthday parties that ran out of cake, staffers whose eyebrows fell out from stress and other ridiculous claims as proof that Hill must be stopped. These claims came from a document prepared by Rawlins attorney Catherine MacPherson that involved detailed interviews of a handful of WDE staffers.
Requests for e-mails from Lubnau to the Legislative Services Office concerning the timing and makeup of the select committee were denied with the explanation from the attorney general's office that legislator's communications are privileged and immune from the public.
Of the 15 people providing negative statements about Hill, 11 received salary increases or promotions immediately after the report was released. That's right, stepping up for the good ol' boys is a wise financial investment.
This entire issue begs the question, what's really going on in Cheyenne?
The intrigue might excite hard core political junkies but the losers are the children of the state.
After unprecedented improved standardized test scores in Hill's first two years, she was removed, and in the third year, scores plummeted across the state and the composite ACT was the lowest in Wyoming history. All this occurred after SF104 was put in place and after the governor quietly signed Wyoming up for Common Core Standards and increased federalization of your child's education.
Standards, something we should expect in our elected officials but something they don't have to deliver because they write their own rules and are immune to those of us on the outside. After all, they're the ones locking all the doors.