The Green Bay, Wisconsin school board spent nearly $10,000 to investigate one of its members, and it remains unclear what, if anything, taxpayers will get for their money.
“There’s a lot of hearsay being used to create a report that appears to actually be more a case of building/manifesto scenario on the taxpayers dime,” board member Rhonda Sitnikau wrote to president Brenda Warren in a March email. “Additionally, the majority of this report points to findings that are not only inaccurate, they conveniently omit any mention of statutory duties of a public school board member in Wisconsin.”
Sitnikau was referring to an investigation commissioned by the school board to look into complaints from parents and staff about how she conducts business, FOX 11 reports.
Sitnikau was appointed to the school board in 2017 and elected two a three-year term the next year.
Last October, the board hired attorney Eileen Brownlee to investigate whether Sitnikau “engaged in conduct unbecoming a Board member” and Brownlee produced a report on March 6.
The report alleges Sitnikau failed to forward complaints from parents or staff to the superintendent, made unreasonable requests for documents from school officials without going through the official channels, and bullied administrators, and interjected herself in employment matters and investigations that involve people she knows.
The report also claimed Sitnikau disparaged a teachers union official, and failed to participate in board meetings and training sessions involving bullying and harassment. Sitnikau refused to discuss the situation with investigators and instead requested a copy of any formal complaint that detailed the accusations.
Brownlee refused to provide the complaint, citing “district policy and confidentiality concerns,” FOX 11 reports.
The investigator told the news site she refused to provide a redacted copy of the complaint “because the substance of the report often identifies the person whether that person’s name is in there or not.”
Sitnikau contends the investigation – which consisted of a review of emails, Facebook posts, board meetings and 10 closed-door interviews – is the district’s latest attempt to silence folks who ask tough questions and demand answers, the Green Bay Press Gazette reports.
“I didn’t come there to be a potted plant and get my picture taken,” she said. “I came here to do work and sometimes very uncomfortable, hard work. That doesn’t always sit well with people in power.”
The report claims Sitnikau violated board policies and suggests the board should hold her accountable, but does not make specific discipline recommendations.
“As it stands today, unless the board has something it requests that I do, I have no further investigation planned,” Brownless told FOX 11.
The bill for the investigation: $9,505.13.
FOX 11 contacted the district’s spokeswoman and School Board President Brenda Warren, but neither offered insight into what, if any, discipline the board may attempt to levy on Sitnikau.
The Gazette reports at least two board members – Kristina Shelton and Andrew Becker – have questioned the investigation online.
“Due to lack of purpose and scope, the investigation went off track from the original allegation … the report does not seem to provide compelling evidence to determine a clear violation of board policy,” Shelton said.
Sitnikau, meanwhile, is putting the investigation and resulting report into context for taxpayers.
“I would like to think that they can read between the lines,” she told FOX 11. “This is a $10,000 investigation, with no supportive documentation, and no disciplinary requirements.”
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