SOUTH BEND -- Boil it down and the question is, is South Bend school board Vice President Bill Sniadecki guilty of misconduct or is he being chastised for a history of calling out board members and the school district's administration for their misconduct?
Board President Roger Parent has scheduled a special meeting at 4 p.m. Nov. 9 for the board to answer that question.
The lone item on the agenda is a resolution to censure Sniadecki.
It's a move that would strip him of his title and duties as vice president, but allow him to remain a voting member of the board through his term, which is over at the end of the year.
Superintendent Carole Schmidt, along with Parent, board Secretary Michelle Engel and board member Maritza Robles met with The Tribune on Wednesday morning to discuss the potential censure of Sniadecki and the evidence they say justifies it.
Sniadecki was unaware of the move to censure him, and the district's investigation into his conduct, until a reporter asked him about it later in the day.
Last month, Sniadecki publicly questioned the legality of an executive session of the board.
Afterward, Parent and Engel called a news conference asking for Sniadecki to step down as vice president and issue an apology.
He did neither.
Parent said Wednesday that he and Schmidt then decided to conduct a "deep and broad" investigation into Sniadecki's conduct as a board member.
One example of alleged misconduct they cite is a November 2011 incident in which Schmidt said Sniadecki dropped off an envelope for her -- when she was still the interim superintendent -- at the administration building marked "confidential."
Inside, she said, was a list of the 20 questions that would be asked of the candidates for permanent superintendent, a position for which she had applied.
As soon as she realized what it was, Schmidt said Wednesday, she sealed it up and had her office staff put it away. She did not look at the questions, she said.
She says she also didn't tell anyone about the letter except for an attorney who works for the school corporation.
On Wednesday, Sniadecki denied ever having delivered the interview questions to Schmidt in advance.
As for Schmidt, she said it never occurred to her at the time to tell any of the other board members.
"There was already controversy surrounding the (superintendent) search," she said, so she figured "no harm, no foul."
A copy of the envelope provided by Schmidt in which Sniadecki allegedly delivered the interview questions has a return address in the left-hand corner of the superintendent's office and a metered stamp in the right-hand corner dated 9-12-2008, though it's not postmarked.
During his eight years in office, Sniadecki said, he's dozens of times delivered mail to the superintendent marked "confidential" in an effort to ensure that he or she would personally open it rather than an office staff member.
At 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, The Tribune requested to inspect the envelope in which Schmidt said Sniadecki delivered the interview questions on Nov. 2, 2011.
Two hours later, Schmidt required the request be made formally in writing, and The Tribune immediately complied. The school corporation responded at 6:15 p.m. that it would not be possible to see the envelope Wednesday because the building was closed.
Much of the rest of what Schmidt and Parent provided The Tribune as evidence of Sniadecki's alleged misconduct was somewhat difficult to decipher because of the amount of information that had been redacted and the lack of context available.
However, several memos and e-mails were peppered with references to Sniadecki "yelling."
And the resolution to censure contains more than one reference to Sniadecki acting in a "threatening manner" toward other board members during executive sessions as far back as 2007.
"Most of this stuff," Sniadecki said, while holding the documents in one hand, "I'm doing my job. I'm doing my job."
"... Roger (Parent) is behind this," he said of the move to censure him. "He has so much power. That's dangerous."
"All I do," Sniadecki went on, "is try to be ethical, inform the public and follow the laws. They do not like some things exposed."
A recent example he gave of how he feels he's not taken seriously on important issues he takes to the administration is something that happened this week.
A school corporation employee, Sniadecki said, told him that a special-education student has been sexually abused recently by another employee.
The first employee wasn't comfortable reporting it to her building principal, he said, because the principal is friends with the person who allegedly perpetrated the abuse.
Sniadecki said Schmidt was dismissive of the issue and told him to advise the first employee to go through her chain of command and report the allegations to her building principal.
When asked Wednesday afternoon, Schmidt said she indeed did recommend to Sniadecki that the employee go through her chain of command, but Schmidt said she herself also notified the building principal.
As to whether the Department of Child Services was notified, Schmidt said she doesn't know. And even if she did know, she said, she couldn't talk about it publicly.
On Nov. 9, it'll take a majority vote of the board to censure Sniadecki for the remainder of his term.
If he's re-elected, Engel said, she is in favor of the board pursuing the judicial process to have him removed as a board member.
Parent said the South Bend school board sometimes has a reputation of being dysfunctional.
That, he said, is primarily because of Sniadecki's actions.
Regarding the timing of the special meeting being just after the election, Parent said it's not politically motivated.
Bringing the issue out before the election and voting on it after, he said, seemed to be the most neutral position to take.
As for Sniadecki, he admitted, he's passionate about issues that affect children in South Bend schools, but the move to censure him, he said, is being done in an effort to discredit him before the election.
It's also directly connected to his bringing to light the potentially illegal executive session of the board last month, he said.
When contacted by The Tribune previously, Indiana Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage said he questioned the specific reason the board used for meeting in executive session.
In a news release sent to the media, the superintendent's office stated the purpose of the closed-door meeting was to discuss the initiation of litigation or litigation that either is pending or has been threatened specifically in writing.
"If the litigation is over, there isn't a pending case," Hoage said, referring to the consent decree, which is an old desegregation order. "You wouldn't be able to meet under that subsection" of the law."
Hoage did point out that effective July 1, school boards are allowed to meet in executive session to discuss school consolidation.
But to do so, he said, they are required to cite the proper exception justifying the closed-door meeting.
Staff writer Kim Kilbride: