June 16, 2011
The county Board of Education has crossed a line, even as it accuses one of its own of doing the same.
In passing a resolution calling upon the State Board of Education to remove Allen Dyer from his elected post on the county school board, his fellow members have taken their disagreements with him to a higher authority instead of settling them discreetly and decorously within the cozy confines of the board itself.
Dyer has unquestionably played hardball with the rest of the board, before and since his election to its ranks, with a series of lawsuits alleging violations of provisions of the state Open Meetings Law. Although one of his suits was dismissed when a judge determined Dyer did not have a personal stake in the alleged transgressions, no court has yet ruled on the actual merits of any of these cases.
In December, two lame-duck members of the board filed identical ethics complaints against Dyer, alleging that he told student member Alexis Adams he would support motions to give the student member full voting rights and to establish a student member scholarship in return for her vote in elections for board chairman and vice chairman in November 2010.
Earlier this month, Dyer's attorney released a transcript of his March 3 hearing, during which the school system's ethics panel — in a closed meeting — found Dyer had not violated its regulations. The school board accepted that finding and dropped the ethics complaint in May — in another closed meeting — but passed a resolution June 9, from member Frank Aquino, removing Dyer from the chairmanship of its audit commission and asking the state school board to strip him of his place on the local board.
Aquino's resolution contends that Dyer repeatedly breached confidentiality provisions that he is obligated to preserve as a member of the Board of Education. It also states that he acted unilaterally on matters affecting the operation of the board and the school system.
In calling for Dyer's removal from the board, the majority has, as first-term member Cindy Vailllancourt put it, taken the "nuclear approach."
Vailllancourt and Brian Meshkin voted against Aquino's measure, saying that, while Dyer's actions might merit censure, overturning the will of the electorate goes beyond the pale. In Meshkin's words, the resolution responds to "extremism with extremism."
We agree. Dyer has been a constant thorn in the side of some of his fellow board members, perhaps sometimes to the point of being counter-productive. He might be more effective as a board member if he were a little less combative, but being an antagonist is hardly a crime. Some have argued that he'd be more effective as an outside critic than he is as a board member, and that might be true, too.
Each side accuses the other of illegal acts. A court has yet to rule on any of those accusations, but the ethics panel at least determined Dyer had not run afoul of its regulations. And of the respective alleged crimes, the school board's — circumventing a law aimed at forcing public bodies to do the public's business in public — is a lot worse than Dyer's releasing a transcript of his own hearing or any other divulging of secrets of which he might be guilty.
The state board should reject the call for Dyer's ouster. If the public is tired of Dyer's antics, they can kick him off the board the old-fashioned way: at the ballot box.
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