A Shakopee banker alleges she was placed on unpaid leave by her employer following a Facebook comment criticizing the Shakopee Public Schools board chair.

Tara McNeally, a Shakopee resident with two children in district schools, works as a personal banker for HomeTown Bank branches in Shakopee located on Vierling Drive West and in Shakopee High School.

HomeTown Bank’s branch in the school is a “community partner” with the district, where McNeally said she works for a few hours during the week to help with personal banking and mentor high school students in marketing and bank telling.

A school district press release stated that “At no point did anyone from the district request that the bank suspend its employee. Nor did anyone from the district ask the bank to take any disciplinary action. Any actions taken by the bank are independent of the partner’s relationship with the district.”

While some of McNeally’s work takes place in the high school building, she and her fellow HomeTown Bank branch coworkers are not employees of the school district.

BOARD MEETING

McNeally attended the Sept. 27 Shakopee School Board meeting.

During the public comment section, Shakopee resident Amanda Enright spoke about how masks had affected her child with disabilities in the classroom.

McNeally took issue with a moment in Enright’s time speaking where School Board Chair Kristi Peterson looked at a projector screen. The screen displayed a timer showing how much allocated time each speaker had remaining.

McNeally voiced her opinion on Facebook that night via a comment left on a post about the meeting: “I personally was really disappointed in board member Kristi Peterson tonight. She was turning around to watch the clock time while Amanda was speaking about her daughter’s struggle with her disability and masking. She did it multiple times! So rude. I know that most people don’t have ill will towards these children … but that lady showed she has NO HEART! Who does that???”

An Oct. 5 press release from the school district said that Peterson’s glances at the screen were not directly related to Enright’s comments.

“It is important for the community to know that Board Chair Peterson’s actions were consistent between all speakers. Due to major technology problems, the monitor positioned in front of the board chair was not functioning. The Board Chair turned periodically during each presentation to check the stopwatch displayed only on the large screen behind her,” the press release said.

Peterson said in her own statement released Oct. 5 that her glances at the timer were her performing her board chair duties of “leading the meeting and ensuring all six speakers received the same time during the public comment portion.”

“To the speaker who felt I was not listening to the concerns she had about her children, please know that I, along with the rest of the school board, did hear your heartfelt remarks,” Peterson said in her statement. “We appreciate all community members who have the courage to come to a meeting and speak to the board.”

SUPERINTENDENT

McNeally said she received a text from her boss on Sept. 28 asking her to remove the comment. She said her boss also noted that the school was upset.

When reached out to by the newspaper, HomeTown Bank declined to comment.

Later, she said she and her boss spoke about the situation. She alleges that her boss reiterated the request for her to take the post down.

McNeally alleges that when she asked who had complained to HomeTown Bank regarding the comment, her boss answered it was Peterson and another unnamed school board member. McNeally said she then decided not to remove the comment.

In her statement, Peterson said she has no history interacting with HomeTown Bank, especially regarding the situation with McNeally.

“It is 100% untrue that I called HomeTown Bank,” Peterson said. “I have never called or have spoken to the manager of the bank. I have never stepped inside either Shakopee bank locations. In addition, I never asked for the post to be removed.”

“If they wanted to get a hold of me, they definitely could have,” McNeally said. “Why is it going directly to my employer?”

On Sept. 29, Superintendent Dr. Mike Redmond sent a letter to HomeTown Bank with a screenshot of McNeally’s Facebook comment. Redmond addressed this in the letter, saying he found McNeally’s post to be “inappropriate and demeaning.”

“The characterization in this post is untrue,” Redmond wrote in the letter. “If this same post were made by an employee of Shakopee Public Schools, it would be considered insubordination, and the event would be referred to our Human Resources Department for appropriate disciplinary action.”

McNeally said after completing her shift on Sept. 29, she spoke with her boss over the phone and was told she was being placed on unpaid leave for two weeks.

According to McNeally, her boss said the company has social media policies and said McNeally was hired to work at the high school branch and would not have a position available there or at the Vierling Drive West location during ongoing investigations.

She also alleges that in the same call, her boss said Redmond had been the one to reach out. According to McNeally, her boss then said she never told McNeally that Peterson had reached out to HomeTown Bank.

The district press release states that the district and HomeTown Bank “had conversations regarding a number of issues, including a series of alleged actions” by McNeally.

McNeally said she wasn’t sure what the conversations regarded.

McNeally said she was shocked when she found out she was being suspended from her work.

Last week, Rep. Erik Mortensen (R-Shakopee) created a GoFundMe on behalf of McNeally titled “Help Tara Pay Her Bills!” As of Oct. 6, the fundraiser has collected over $8,000.

McNeally said her unpaid leave is scheduled to end later next week. She said she has been unable to get in touch with her employer since Sept. 29 and is unsure on what is to happen after her suspension ends.

In Redmond’s letter to her employer, he stated that McNeally “may certainly be present at Sweeney Elementary and West Middle School in the role of a parent. She may not be present in any other part of the school district, without my express permission, until the investigation is concluded.”

The district later clarified that “Should there be a desire or need for additional activity as a parent, this is typically acceptable. For example, a parent in this situation can certainly attend a school board meeting.”

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