By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
On December 16, 2003, after Sypnieski had been working at the thrift shop about two months, David Colonna, a school trustee, was reviewing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's sex-offender Website (www3.fdle.state.fl.us/sexual_ predators) when he came across Sypnieski's picture. In an e-mail to other trustees, Colonna wrote that he informed Allen-Faiella: "She was equally distressed by this information and assured me she would consult with the individual."
Allen-Faiella confirms this. "I was made aware of his record on the sixteenth of December [a Tuesday]," she says. Because the Christmas break was to begin Friday, she continues, "I intended to take care of the situation as soon as we got back. In fact I put it on the calendar for January 7 to talk with my priest assistant how we were going to handle the matter."
In other words, her immediate response to this rather chilling news was to schedule a meeting two weeks later with her assistant.
Allen-Faiella never held that meeting. Another parent discovered the same sex-offender information on January 6 and ran straight to the school's principal, Carol Shabe, who sprang into crisis-management mode. On the advice of her attorney, Shabe won't comment for this story, but the events of that day are widely known. She called board chairman J. Brett Houston to brief him, then went directly to Allen-Faiella's office. Shabe had to confront the pastor two more times before she was able to persuade Allen-Faiella to act that day to reclaim Sypnieski's keys. (Houston resigned in support of Shabe.)
Allen-Faiella believes too much is being made of the episode. "I think it's being blown totally out of proportion," she says. "The appropriate people knew about it. No big deal was made about it. And suddenly it became a big issue." In fact she claims that Shabe told her: "We're just going to keep this quiet. No reason to get people alarmed." (Shabe has told parents she doesn't recall such a conversation.)
Allen-Faiella also says that following Sypnieski's dismissal, she's learned his probation had ended prior to him volunteering, and that she'd read something indicating "he was not considered a criminal threat to the community." (She can't recall where she saw the information.) Had she known these things earlier, would she have allowed Sypnieski to work at the parish? "That's a moot point now," she responds.
Shabe, meanwhile, has hired an attorney to contest her dismissal. Several parents have contributed to the ex-principal's legal fund, money they had intended to donate to St. Stephen's.