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Dyer vows to fight 'anti-democratic' vote

School board member Allen Dyer has vowed to fight the county Board of Education's dramatic attempt to oust him from his position.

Last week's vote to ask the state board to remove Dyer — the first attempt to impeach a board member in recent memory, according to several county officials — was "anti-democratic, intolerant and stupid," Dyer said in an interview.

He promised to appeal any decision by the Maryland State Board of Education to officially remove him.

While Dyer said he was surprised by the move, that surprise was not matched by other county elected officials, who noted Dyer's history of challenging board decisions and policy, both before he was elected to the board in 2008 and since.

Accusing him misconduct, the Howard board voted 5-2 at its meeting June 9 to publicly censure Dyer, remove him as chairman and member of the board's audit committee and formally request that the state board remove him. Dyer abstained from voting.

Members Brian Meshkin and Cindy Vaillancourt were the only opposing votes on the resolution. Chairwoman Janet Siddiqui, vice-chairwoman Sandra French, Frank Aquino, Ellen Flynn Giles and student member Alexis Adams voted in favor of the action.

"The positions taken by Mr. Dyer have no impact on what matters most, and that is the classroom experience of our students," Aquino said in presenting the resolution. "The public needs to know the board is willing to take action against board members who engage in blatant misconduct."

Dyer has a history of filing lawsuits against the board dating back 11 years. In the 2 1/2 years he has spent on the board, he has filed several legal actions, including two lawsuits. Since 2000, Dyer's suits have cost the school system more than $443,000, according to the school system.

Dyer said his lawsuits were examples of him "willing to go the extra mile."

"I'm just asking for opinions from the court," he said.

In December 2010, two ethics complaints were filed against Dyer, beginning a confidential process with the school system's ethics panel. When information leaked to a local blog about the ethics hearing in March, Dyer released records of the complaints.

Dyer has said he was not the source of the initial leak.

On June 6, Dyer's attorney, Harold Burns, released transcripts of the ethics hearing and the panel's recommendation. The ethics complaints against Dyer were dismissed.

Still, the breach of confidentiality and the lawsuits were two reasons board member Frank Aquino cited when proposing the resolution.

'Less extreme' action urged

At the June 9 board meeting, Meshkin expressed discomfort in voting to overturn the will of the public. While he empathized with Aquino's dissatisfaction with Dyer's conduct and objected to a sitting board member suing the board and ruining "the integrity of the ethics panel process," he said he did not find objectionable behavior impeachable.

"I serve at the will of the public, as we all do, and I don't find it anywhere in any of our roles and responsibilities to overturn that will of the public," he said.

Meshkin added that being "a pain in the rear end or a jerk" is not illegal behavior. He later apologized to Dyer for that remark. Both Meshkin and Vaillancourt were in favor of "less extreme" action, such as publicly censuring Dyer.

"I think that a measured approach is more reasonable than a nuclear approach," Vaillancourt said, recommending a public reprimand.

Siddiqui had already publicly reprimanded Dyer on April 14, an action Dyer claimed was illegal, since the board did not take an official vote on the matter.

If the Maryland State Board of Education does remove Dyer from his seat, the vacancy will have to be filled by an appointment from County Executive Ken Ulman.

Ulman said he was not surprised by the board's move, explaining that he has followed the frustration and concern felt by the majority of the board members. When a member of a board sues the board, it creates a dysfunctional situation, Ulman said.

Historically, Ulman said, the Howard board has worked together well.

"Citizens join in for the right reasons," he said. "They're elected to keep our school system a great school system, and a lot of us were sensing that may be breaking down on some level. I'm not surprised (the board) acted to preserve that — the high quality, the functioning board of education system."

County Council member Mary Kay Sigaty, a former school board member, said she, too, was not surprised by the board's move. It's the responsibility of board members to act together, she said, and it's clear the board decided its work was being hindered by Dyer's actions.

"And watching, I would have to concur with that assessment," she said.

Dyer: 'It's crazy'

Dyer, however, lambasted the decision.

"It's unheard of," he said. "It's crazy to see them interfere with the relationship between voters and myself, because they have that same relationship."

Dyer's term is up in 2012, and he plans to run for re-election, he said.

Siddiqui said that while the board did have the option of waiting for voters to decide, it also had the option of asking the state to remove Dyer.

"The majority of the board felt this was the option to go with," she said. "I think whether or not we get to a position where the voters decide in the next election, (removing Dyer) may play out as well."

That decision should be left to the voters, Dyer said.

"It's up to the voters to let me continue or not," he said. "I place my faith in the voters, because my duty and obligation belong to them. My duty is not to my fellow board members, it's to the public. I'll be damned if I ever give that up. (The voters) can vote me out if they want. That's what they're there for."

Dyer said the current culture of the Howard board, one in which people "work together" like Sigaty and Ulman said, is one of "rubber-stamping."

"The idea of dissension is a new wrinkle in the Howard County Board of Education culture," he said. "The reaction is to get rid of dissension. People disagree. That's happened in the world before. Things work this way."

Dyer said he would not have voted out a colleague.

"It's hypothetical," he said, "and I don't know absolutely because I've never been in that situation, but I think if I were in the board majority, I would be not be asking the state board to remove a member. I don't see that happening. It's just not right."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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