NEW PALESTINE — By a vote of 5-0 the Southern Hancock School Board Monday night approved hiring board secretary Barb Snyder’s daughter-in-law for a position in the corporation office.
While the board technically did not violate district policy in hiring Christy Snyder to be a human resources assistant, the move does create “an elephant in the room” with regard to perceptions on nepotism, Superintendent Jim Halik says he told the woman during her job interview.
Southern Hancock’s bylaws contain a nepotism policy. It lists board members’ close relatives – such as a parent, spouse or sibling – among those who are ineligible to be hired for support positions. The list doesn’t mention daughters-in-law.
Barb Snyder, other board members and Halik said they did nothing wrong and simply hired the best person for the position. They also said they were comfortable with the hiring process.
“I don’t worry about it,” Barb Snyder said. “Part of it is because I will have no direct interaction with what she does in the office. We go through a strict chain of command.”
When the district was fielding resumes for the position, Barb Snyder had conversations with both Halik and board President William Niemier, making them aware of the fact her daughter-in-law was applying for a position in the district.
“I did let Mr. Halik know that she may apply and that I was aware of it, but we (the board) had nothing to do with the hiring; we (the board) get the list after the fact,” Barb Snyder said.
Halik was the person to officially hire Christy Snyder and said of the 16 to 17 different applicants for the position, Christy Snyder was the most qualified.
However, when pressed to answer how many people he actually interviewed for the job, Halik declined to answer, saying it was corporation information he didn’t want to divulge.
Halik said at first he felt hiring Christy Snyder might be a bit of a quandary. But after reviewing all the applicants, it was apparent she was the only person qualified for the assistant human resources position, which pays $17 an hour.
“She’d been a human resource person for the Tippecanoe School Corporation for five years, and we’ve never had anyone with any human resource experience in that position before,” Halik said.
Halik said he immediately recognized the dilemma after Barb Snyder contacted him several weeks ago, but in the end, he decided to bring Christy Snyder in for an interview.
“She’s not Barb’s daughter,” Halik said. “She married into the family.”
Halik said after the interview he felt confident Christy Snyder was the right person for the job.
“In that interview, I told her, ‘You know, there is an elephant in the room with your mother-in-law being on the board,’ ” Halik said.
Christy Snyder told him it would not be a problem; Halik said that was good enough for him.
“She made it clear to me that it would not be a problem, and I believe her,” he said.
Niemier said Barb Snyder, who is one of two policy liaison officials for the board, asked him to review the corporation hiring policy to make sure it would be all right for the district to hire Snyder’s daughter-in-law.
“I did review the policy,” Niemier said. “After reviewing that, I concluded that there was not a conflict.”
Like Barb Snyder, Niemier said he is not concerned about appearances and feels the board did nothing wrong in hiring a family member.
“What I’m concerned with is finding the best employee for the position,” Niemier said.
All board members – Craig Wagoner, Tom Tucker, Brian McKinney, Niemier and Snyder – accepted the personnel report, which included Christy Snyder’s hiring, when it was brought up for approval. There was no discussion.
Other board members have relatives on the school corporation’s payroll. Board members must sign disclosure forms acknowledging the potential conflict of interest.
McKinney’s wife, Julie McKinney, is a teacher in the district. Two of board member Tom Tucker’s sisters work in the district as well, but he is not required to file a conflict-of-interest form because his relatives are not dependents.