By Sara Toth, firstname.lastname@example.org
10:13 AM EDT, May 9, 2012
Nearly a year after the Howard County Board of Education moved to remove board member Allen Dyer from office, a hearing in the case began Monday at the Office of Administrative Hearings in Hunt Valley.
In her opening argument, board attorney Judith Bresler outlined how Dyer had acted "in contravention of the norms of behavior" fitting board members.
"Misconduct in office can be found in the absence of moral turpitude or intentional wrongdoing," Bresler said. "There need not be ... criminal or immoral conduct."
Yet as of Wednesday morning, only current board members Frank Aquino and Ellen Giles had testified, putting proceedings at least 1 1/2 days behind schedule and threatening to extend the hearings well beyond the allotted five days. The hearing was scheduled to end next week.
Administrative Law Judge Douglas Koteen, who is hearing the case and who will present a recommendation to the state Board of Education, said Tuesday the two sides will have to discuss an extended schedule for the case.
Bresler said she had four more witnesses to call; Dyer may have as many as a dozen — including himself.
Part of the delay was caused by Dyer's lengthy cross-examination's of Bresler's witnesses; Aquino sat on the bench for more than six hours during the course of two days, and Giles' 3 1/2-hour testimony was still not complete at Tuesday's close.
Koteen expressed some displeasure with Dyer's cross-examinations.
"This is waste of everyone's time — not the proceedings themselves, but the manner in which you're asking questions," Koteen told Dyer.
At one point, Dyer, who is representing himself, asked Aquino to review a 500-page piece of evidence.
Dyer said that due to the vagueness of the charges against him, the entire scope of his board term should be included in the context of the board's hearings; subsequently, about 4,000 pages of evidence were submitted to Koteen by Dyer and the board.
"I came into the hearing without knowing the details of exactly what the charges were," Dyer said after proceedings Tuesday. "It's necessary to probe all over the place in order to zero in on the charges."
Dyer was charged with misconduct by the majority of the Howard board in June 2011 and a request for his removal was sent to the state board, which directed the case to the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Elected to the board in 2008, Dyer has a history of suing the board — both before and during his time as a member — a history that rankled some board members. The assertions in his lawsuits range from Open Meetings Act violations to the destruction of public records.
"The entrenched board majority abused their responsibility to the public by denouncing my record as a pattern of behavior that the board majority judged as misconduct in office," Dyer said in his opening statement Monday. "Their actions have accomplished their political purpose of poisoning the electorate against me and destroying my candidacy for a second term on the Board of Education."
In the April 3 primary election, Dyer finished eighth in a field of 14 candidates; only the top six finishers progressed to November's general election.
During his testimony, Aquino was asked by Dyer for examples of how Dyer had acted in a threatening manner to board members or school system employees, as charged in the June 2011 resolution that Aquino authored.
Aquino said Dyer's actions and demands once drove the board's administrative specialist, Kathleen Hanks, to tears, and that once Dyer called for school system attorney Mark Blom's firing. Both Hanks and Blom are witnesses for Dyer.
After Tuesday's proceedings were adjourned, Dyer said his lengthy questioning was to try to expose "less-than-sterling" practices among board members and the board culture.
"I'm trying to point out problems with the system," he said. "As a practical matter, I can see their perspective that I'm putting them on trial, but it's not them, it's the way they behave and the culture they have, that I want to change. I'm trying to do to for our board what our teachers are trying to do for our students – take them to the next level."