Schornheuser's conduct warrants his resignation
"Call the Tune" by Mike Anthony
We'd like to telephone Mehlville Board of Education member Bill Schornheuser and ask him why he wants to serve on the school board, but most likely he wouldn't return our call.
Mr. Schornheuser, elected to the Board of Education last year, certainly hasn't had much to say the few times a Call reporter has called him.
In fact, the only time he's bothered to return one of our calls, he said he would call us the next day and grant us an interview. But he never bothered to call us back.
That's not surprising because while Mr. Schornheuser may not have much to say in an interview or during an open session of the board, he apparently has plenty to say during closed sessions and behind the scenes, out of sight of public scrutiny.
Mr. Schornheuser, like the majority of the current members of the Board of Education and the district's administration, doesn't seem to care much for public comment, especially if it's critical of the board or administration. Besides not being very supportive of freedom of speech, we can only surmise that Mr. Schornheuser's not a big fan of democracy either.
We say that because we were shocked to learn that Mr. Schornheuser called a district resident who is seeking election to the Board of Education in the April 6 election and tried to persuade him to take his name off the ballot. Karl Frank Jr. told this newspaper that Mr. Schornheuser called him Jan. 19 and told him "I had until 5 p.m. (the next) day to take my name off of the ballot.''
Three candidates have filed for two seats in April's election. Mr. Frank said that as Mr. Schornheuser touted the virtues of the other two candidates — Tom Correnti and incumbent Rita Diekemper — he got the distinct impression that "I don't think he wanted me to run."
In their conversation, Mr. Schornheuser pointed out that if only two candidates ran, the district would save money by not having to conduct an election under a new state law that went into effect this year. We don't believe the intent of the new law was to discourage candidates from running and we consider Mr. Schornheuser's efforts to have Mr. Frank take his name off the ballot shameful and inappropriate.
But, as we said, Mr. Schornheuser apparently doesn't believe in freedom of speech either, given an e-mail he sent to district administrators and board members regarding a Web site, www.karlfrankjr.com, paid for and run by Mr. Frank. The Web site, which Mr. Frank is using to promote his campaign, includes various entries that he has written, some of which criticize Mehlville board members and administrators. The Web site also includes a public forum or "blog," in which viewers of the site can write comments in response to Frank's campaign or statements posted on the site.
Given his e-mail, we don't see how Mr. Schornheuser could believe in freedom of speech. In his e-mail, he writes, "I have captured some of the information that is on Mr. Frank's Web site. I would like to understand the truth behind each of these statements. I would also like to understand what we — as a board or board member — can or cannot do regarding the open forum/open comment format that Mr. Frank is suggesting within his Web site.
"I think that the best person to answer this question would be our legal team. I would hope that they would review this type of forum/format so that each of us understands any liability issues. I would also hope that someone would sit down with Mr. Frank very soon and talk with him about possible issues with his forum/format,'' the e-mail states.
We certainly would have liked to discuss the "possible issues'' that Mr. Schornheuser writes about in his e-mail, but, as we said before, he never bothered to call us back like he said he would. But it wouldn't be the first time that Mr. Schornheuser hasn't called us back. In a Call questionnaire Mr. Schornheuser completed when he was running for the board last year, he listed his job as an associate systems engineer with Union Pacific.
It's no secret Union Pacific plans to move more than 1,000 employees who work here to Omaha, Neb., this year, including information technology workers. When we first learned about this in January, we called Mr. Schornheuser to ask if he would be affected. He didn't return our call, so we finally e-mailed him.
Here's his response: "Thank you for your interest. At this time my employment status has not changed. Likewise, I will continue to be dedicated and available to the patrons of the Mehlville School District as director. Please assure your readers that I can be reached via e-mail or by phone as published by the district.''
Why couldn't he have told us that over the telephone? We certainly hope he's better at returning patrons' telephone calls than this newspaper's, but given his track record, we're not very optimistic about that.
We also would question his reference as being "dedicated.'' Dedicated to whom?
We don't believe he's dedicated to the residents of the Mehlville School District.
If he was, he would encourage public comment and criticism in an effort to improve the district, and he would be willing to discuss his actions with this newspaper so residents would understand his motivation.
But it's hard to defend conduct that is disgraceful, such as trying to discourage a candidate from seeking election to the school board or stifling a candidate's opinions about the school district.
Mr. Schornheuser's conduct has been so disgraceful that we believe he should resign his school board seat because, given his actions, we don't see how he could believe in democracy and freedom of speech.