In February of 2013 Governor Mead assembled an inquiry team to investigate concerns and gather facts relative to human resources, budget issues, and department operations in the Wyoming Department of Education. A federal audit reports questionable management practices in the WDE when it was under Superintendent Cindy Hill’s control. The audit reported that state law may have been violated and the state may have to pay back an undetermined amount of federal funds.
Representative for Natrona County Tim Stubson says, "It looks to largely be confirmation of what we already knew and what we've learned through the investigatory process. I haven't seen anything in the audit that so far is surprising to me or different than what we've already heard from testimony." While Senator for Natrona County Drew Perkins says, "It's not just about the department of education it looks at a number of programs that receive federal funds in the state and it looked at all of those and tried to look at see where issues with respect to expenditures, as well as internal control."
Specifically highlighted in the report are so-called “Teacher-To-Teacher” professional development funds, which legislators blocked in 2012. This totaled more than 350-thousand dollars in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Auditors blame what they term “management overrides of internal financial controls” and recommend more review by the Wyoming attorney general and the U.S. Department of Education.
"There was a high turnover of people and so there wasn't necessarily people there who were there who were trained and understood what procedures needed to follow in order to keep the internal controls appropriated and so what you ended up with some money that was spent into doing certain things that was probably not intended to be spent, still spent in education, but it was not intended to be spent in those areas," Perkins said.
Hill responded to the findings and says she is “pleased with the results of the federal audit.” However, what is the next stop for the legislature? A special report will be released in April and they will go from there.
"There is a committee that's supposed to report back at the end of April on different options for dealing with our education system as a whole and so really after they come back with those options we'll have to see whether the leadership in the legislature decides to call for a special session or not," Stubson said.