Cindy Hill vows to resume her former duties Monday morningBy Ron Feemster — March 6, 2014
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill announced today that she is going back to work at the Department of Education headquarters in the Hathaway Building on Monday, whether or not a district court judge writes the order that would restore her duties.
Hill was relieved of her duties at the end of the 2013 legislative session, when the governor signed Senate File 104. Hill sued the state and won a 3-2 decision in January, when the state Supreme Court declared the new law unconstitutional. The court ordered Laramie County District Court Judge Thomas Campbell to issue an order to enforce the higher court’s ruling. But the judge has yet to write the order. Hill maintains an office in the State Museum on Central Ave.
“Monday, March 10 at 8 a.m. I will resume my duties as state Superintendent of Public Instruction, the job I was elected to do,” Hill told a group of journalists gathered in an exhibit hall of the museum.
Hill’s announcement left education department employees and legislators gasping in disbelief.
“About half of the department was listening in on the call,” said Richard Crandall, the director of the Department of Education, who was appointed by the governor last summer after a national search for candidates.
Crandall spoke with WyoFile as he was leaving the Capitol after meeting with Gov. Matt Mead and his staff. The governor would be directing Attorney General Peter Michael to issue a statement clarifying the law, Crandall said.
Crandall, who at first declined to comment on the record, said he was concerned that everyone wait for the court order and follow the law.
Later in the day, Crandall held a brief press conference. He explained that he would be waiting for Hill at the front door of the Hathaway building with a letter from the Attorney General, which he would share with Hill. He had no plans to prevent her from entering the building.
“She can come in and walk around certain parts of the building like any member of the public,” Crandall said. “But she can’t go into people’s offices. We don’t allow the general public to walk in and out of people’s offices.”
Hill began her press conference by reciting the oath of office she took when she was sworn into office. She noted that the governor and the state legislators take the identical oath to obey the constitution of the United States and the state of Wyoming.
She then read aloud from the Supreme Court ruling, emphasizing a passage that instructed the state to take action “without delay.” At that point she called on the governor and the Legislature to restore the duties that SF104 stripped from her office.
Asked if the “without delay” passage relates to the restoration of her duties or the judge’s obligation to issue an order, she said the passage clearly related to restoring the duties of her old job.
“The Supreme Court expressed the urgency of returning the superintendent to office,” Hill said. “The state must return to constitutional compliance as quickly as possible.”
Hill accused “the governor and his lawyers of plotting new delaying tactics.” She said she was going back to work to “serve the children of Wyoming.”
Hill was unconcerned when asked about how the Department of Education staff and security officers might respond to her entrance.
“As always, we’ll work together,” Hill said. “Our focus is on the children of Wyoming. I expect that we will work together as professionals.”
Crandall said at his press conference that three people had resigned from WDE in the last seven days. “And we know of some people who will leave the day she starts. About six people.”
In the meantime, lawmakers drew a distinction between the Supreme Court ruling, which found SF104 unconstitutional, and the district court order, which would specify how the ruling will be enforced.
“We will follow any court order,” said Mary Throne (D-Cheyenne), the minority floor leader, at a press conference an hour after Hill spoke. “We respectfully suggest that the superintendent do the same and wait for a court order.”
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