Near the end of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” a study in duplicity takes place. As the people at the government camp hold a dance, a police squad arrives and demands to know “Where’s the riot?”
It is evident that there is no riot, but one of the more-clueless officers checks his watch then scratches his head and says, “There was supposed to be a riot.”
The local authorities had arranged a riot to start just as they arrived so they could crack a few skulls and break up the camp.
A similar pattern is popular in Cheyenne these days, at least in the realm of the ongoing, ad nauseum witch hunt aimed at State Superintendent Cindy Hill.
Yes, folks, the meter is still running on this miasma of misappropriation by your state legislature. It has now cost in excess of $1 million and still no specific allegations aside from the old “not enough cake at a birthday party” and one new one: “Cindy was rude and didn’t sit down to eat a breakfast burrito with us.” (Not just an ordinary burrito but a healthy, USDA-certified burrito.) Horrors! Let the impeachment begin.
The entire charade begets the question “What is really going on?”
Suppositions surround that question, and all have dollar signs attached. It can’t be easy to keep a straight face on the other side, the side managed by Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau of Gillette.
Since the implementation of SF104 stripped the voting rights of the people of Wyoming to manage their own children’s education, legislative supporters have searched desperately for something, anything, to justify their piracy of the people’s will.
It is a classic case of “shoot, ready, aim.”
Dozens of audits, special investigators and committee hearings have produced nothing of substance. As State Rep. Nathan Winters, representing Fremont and Hot Springs counties, said, there wasn’t much verifiable, fact-based testimony.
“I want us to pay careful attention to allegations that we can act on and such, but I did notice a lot of speculation and hearsay sort of things,” Winters said.
The final straw in this ongoing circus came just last week when the special committee questioned 16 openly antagonistic Wyoming Department of Education personnel about Hill’s actions.
The inquiry was portrayed as a simple investigation with questions from the committee and answers from the witnesses. What it didn’t say was that some, most or all of the witnesses had been thoroughly coached to the tune of $350 per hour by attorneys hired by the committee.
During the questioning it became apparent that the witnesses not only were coached but had written answers to the supposedly impromptu questions prepared in advance. One WDE staffer inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he began reading his response to a question from a document he held in his lap.
This type of subterfuge is not unique, but it has become the rule of law since the implementation of SF104.
In a March 7 story in the Arizona Capitol Times, appointed director of education Richard Crandall announced his resignation from the Arizona Legislature effective August 2013.
Why was he leaving? “My dream job has come through,” Crandall said. “It’s as exciting as all get out.”
Good for Richard Crandall. The problem is that he made this statement weeks before the Wyoming Legislature allocated $40,000 for a national search to be conducted for the WDE job, and months before Crandall and three other candidates were interviewed for the position.
You may call it simply a coincidence, but Crandall’s health insurance provided by the Arizona Legislature appears to have ended the day his coverage as the new director of the WDE began back in August.
Meanwhile, a Wyoming State Board of Education contractor was paid an additional $10,000 to orchestrate the apparently perfunctory search / interview process to legitimize the hiring of Crandall — after, apparently, it already had taken place.
In another twist, Sen. Hank Coe of Cody has a vacation home in Crandall’s former city of residence, Phoenix. Both are members in ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council) which introduces corporations to state legislators who might be cooperative to the corporations’ interests. Did they know each other prior to the appointment? Crandall has stated publicly to WDE staffers that they did.
As people within the WDE quietly say, “You just can’t make this stuff up.”
So what is going on?
It seems that the success in reading at Fremont County School District 38 in Arapahoe is a real problem for many of the WDE’s complaining witnesses. Is it that they can’t stand success at low cost, or is it that they can’t stand success among American Indian children?
One “offense” Hill probably is guilty of is not voting with the “good ol’ boys” in her position on the state land board, loan and investment board, state building commission, and similar entities on which she, as the elected superintendent, serves. Many people say part of Hill’s persecution came about because she didn’t “play nice,” voting against deals that benefited the “right people.”
The governor and many prominent senators and representatives who favored SF104 have distanced themselves from the issue recently. Think of the scene in “Titanic” where swimmers are trying desperately to evade the sinking goliath before being sucked underwater with it, and you get an idea of the political damage this could produce.
As a final note to the growing level of desperation among SF104 supporters, someone started the rumor that Cindy Hill and I are cousins in an effort to disavow the truth. We are not related in any way.
When you don’t like the message, attack the messenger. It’s an old trick, but it didn’t so work well for Caesar.
And it won’t work now.
Editor’s note: Riverton Ranger staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired educator.