CHEYENNE, Wyoming — A special House committee investigating state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill has narrowed its focus to mainly issues involving possible misappropriation of funds and resources, although it's looking into some personnel matters that are being kept out of the public view for now.
"We've chased a lot of allegations that turned out to be bare allegations, and so some of those we've pared out," said House Speaker Tom Lubnau, who is chairman of the House Select Investigative Committee. "... We want to deal with those issues that we think are essential to the operation of government."
The committee met Monday and spent most of its 3½ hours of work in closed session hearing legal counsel and discussing material that could not be released publicly.
The panel was created after a recent inquiry conducted through Gov. Matt Mead's office reported a number of concerns with how Hill managed the state Education Department, including possible misuse of federal funds. Hill was stripped of her authority over the agency earlier this year by a new law enacted by the Legislature and Mead.
Depending on its findings, the committee's work could lead to impeachment proceedings against Hill, who is a Republican.
Hill has denied any wrongdoing and says the investigation is a political witch hunt.
Lubnau, R-Gillette, said the investigative committee's work also could lead to legislation dealing with state government oversight and accountability.
The panel and its four subcommittees have looked into dozens of issues. The areas they're now concentrating on include: the alleged use of state employees and money to help Fremont School District 38 improve student reading scores; the possible use of the state airplane and special education money; alleged destruction or withholding of information sought through a freedom of information request.
Other issues concerning personnel were not disclosed because they involved private information about employees, Lubnau said.
Attorneys representing the committee will interview potential witnesses to testify before the committee, perhaps sometime in mid-December, Lubnau said.
Lubnau said he hoped to have a draft committee report ready by the end of December and a final report done by the end of January, before the Legislature convenes for its budget session Feb. 10.
Hill ran the Education Department for about two years after she was elected in 2010 to the statewide office. The superintendent's office remains one of five statewide elected offices, but with greatly reduced powers and duties under the new law.
Hill, who has announced her intention to run for governor next year, has challenged the constitutionality of the new state law. Her lawsuit is now pending a decision by the state Supreme Court.