The president of the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education has reprimanded Superintendent Dan Snowberger for inappropriately using his school email account to air his “personal agenda” about several incidents that have occurred over the past few months.
As a result, the school board has ordered that all sensitive emails Snowberger intends to send from his school email account first be reviewed and approved by select 9-R staff.
“We are saddened to have to do this, however, you seem to be struggling to control your emotions and your words,” board president Nancy Stubbs wrote in an email to Snowberger on Dec. 27. The Durango Herald obtained the email through a Colorado Open Records Act request.
“You continue to address past unhelpful actions in a very public forum.”
Stubbs’ rebuke came in response to an email Snowberger sent Dec. 21 to 9-R staff that said he intended to take legal action after members of a citizens group recently released a “white paper” report that questioned alleged inaccuracies and misleading information on his résumé.
“Sadly, I have personally engaged an attorney to address the libel and defamation of character that some individuals in our community felt appropriate. This will be a personal issue from this point forward and will be handled by me as a private citizen,” he wrote.
The email does not make clear who Snowberger intends to sue, but in a meeting with the school board Dec. 19, in which the superintendent defended his résumé, he said he is likely to sue the Herald for defamation for publishing a story about the white paper.
Also, Stubbs and the board took issue with Snowberger’s email that goes on at length about his recent relationship with the Herald regarding its coverage of the résumé report, as well as an incident at Needham Elementary, where a district employee had the police called on her for reportedly trespassing.
“After each of us on the Board read your (Dec. 21) memo, we became alarmed that you would use the 9-R email account for your personal agenda where it is not appropriate for you to refer to your plans for litigation or your relations with the media,” Stubbs wrote.
Stubbs wrote that Snowberger must “cease and desist” using the 9-R account for emails to staff concerning these recent issues. Instead, communications related to those issues should be referred to Stubbs, Deputy Superintendent Andy Burns or the district’s attorney, Darryl Farrington.
“Also, any replies to emails where you feel you are being baited or second-guessed should go through one of the three designated people – because it appears you have lost perspective in how to address those (issues),” Stubbs said. “All ‘normal’ working emails you should, of course, answer.
“To sum it up, please just do your job as it relates to running the district,” Stubbs wrote.
Stubbs concluded: “This is, hopefully, a stop-gap solution that will be discussed and resolved at our meeting January 15.” (That meeting has been moved to Jan. 22.)
Snowberger did not respond to a request seeking comment for this story.
In his Dec. 21 email, Snowberger characterized the white paper written by a group of about 40 residents, employees and former employees of 9-R as an “attack.”
He wrote that he intends to hold a public meeting this month to “present that documentation and answer questions for those who have had their faith or trust impacted by the attack.”
“I will not let anyone harm me or my family by making false attacks on me without being held accountable,” Snowberger wrote in the email.
The names of those who wrote the white paper remain anonymous.
Snowberger also chided the Herald for reporting on the white paper “without the opportunity for me to present facts.”
Snowberger said the Herald reached out for comment Dec. 9, a Sunday, when he said he was at the hospital with his wife who was recently injured in a car crash. He wrote in his Dec. 21 email that the Herald published the story Dec. 10.
The Herald did email and left a voicemail Dec. 9 asking Snowberger for comment about the report. However, the story about alleged inaccuracies and misleading information on Snowberger’s résumé was published Dec. 11 on the Herald’s website and in the Dec. 12 print edition. In addition, on Dec. 11, Snowberger’s assistant, Sarah Berggren, emailed a Herald reporter and said Snowberger, who was on family leave during December, was not accessing his 9-R email while he was on leave and he would not respond to requests for comment.
Snowberger also wrote in the Dec. 21 email about his grievances with the Herald’s reporting of recent events, namely, an October incident in which a Needham Elementary School assistant called 911 to report that 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp was trespassing at the school because she had been “banned.”
When initially questioned by the Herald about the incident, Snowberger denied the incident took place. He accused the reporter of trying to slander an individual without evidence and living in a “world lined with conspiracy theories.”
Snowberger later admitted the incident took place and made a public apology and said he regrets how he handled the situation.
“I own my unprofessional behavior of being drawn in and becoming emotional with a reporter who lost my trust in prior interactions,” Snowberger wrote in the Dec. 21 email. “That is no excuse for my unprofessional exchange and I am embarrassed by that.”
Stubbs, when contacted Monday, declined to comment further on the email she sent to Snowberger. She said the board will examine the events of this past semester at Snowberger’s mid-year review on Jan. 22. He is expected to receive a one-year contract extension unless members of the board take action at that meeting.