2:54 PM EDT, September 26, 2011
The editorial cartoon of Sept. 15 depicted Board of Education Chairwoman Janet Siddiqui banging the gavel at fellow school board member Allen Dyer. However, the article about the Sept. 8 board meeting also revealed that Siddiqui was attempting to preemptively censor Dyer's speech. Nothing in her duties as chairwoman authorizes her to censor the speech of another.
She apparently feared that Dyer would impugn the law firm being discussed or release confidential information. At that time Dyer was speaking as an individual and not representing the whole board. If the law firm was impugned then they had recourse to seek relief from Dyer, not the whole board. If confidential information was released, then Siddiqui had recourse under the board's established procedures
Preemptive censorship is not legit in this country. In this case Siddiqui was the one who was out of order.
Dyer's sin: attempting to force the board to adhere to the Maryland Open Meetings Act and to conduct its business openly and transparently. If the board would expend its energies adhering to the law and striving to be completely open and transparent, then its problems with Dyer would disappear.
I know how discouraging it is to serve on a public board that is not committed to openness and transparency. I hope Dyer is willing to serve another term.
Russ Swatek is a former member of the Columbia Association's board of directors.
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