Baltimore County school board members call for ethics meeting following White, Dance disclosures

The Baltimore County school board will meet in closed session to discuss possible ethics code violations related to the failure of the current and former superintendents to report consulting income, the board chairman said Friday.

Four board members say they asked the panel’s chairman, Edward J. Gilliss, for an “emergency” session to discuss “multiple reports of possible ethics violations” within the administration. Gilliss says he agrees a meeting is warranted and has asked members about possible dates prior to the board’s next regular meeting Nov. 21.

Gilliss said the meeting to discuss ethics would be closed to the public because it involves personnel issues.

The Baltimore Sun reported this week that Interim Superintendent Verletta White did not report income she received for four years — from 2013 to last year — as a consultant for Chicago-based Education Research & Development Institute. The work involved attending twice-a-year conferences where she provided feedback to education technology companies, clients of ERDI, that sell products to school districts.

In an email Thursday to school system employees, White said failing to disclose the income as required by the district’s ethics code was an “honest mistake” but did not amount to a conflict of interest because ERDI itself does not hold school system contracts.

Former superintendent Dallas Dance was also a consultant for ERDI from 2014 through spring of this year, according to company executives. Dance did not report being paid by the firm in 2014 and 2015, school system records show. But he did report income received in 2016 on a form filed April 30 — two weeks after he had announced his resignation from the school district.

The Sun has reported that Dance is under investigation by the Maryland state prosecutor’s office for his relationship with SUPES Academy, a company that had a contract with the school system.

The school board members – Kathleen Causey, Roger Hayden, Julie Henn and Ann Miller – said they asked Gilliss Wednesday to convene a meeting about “the ethical issues surrounding BCPS relations with edtech vendors,” according to a statement the group issued Friday.

The group said in the statement that Gilliss did not respond to the request, which included a separate letter asking state education officials to participate in the meeting.

“We have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Henn said in the statement. “Even the appearance of impropriety is something we must take seriously and investigate fully.”

Gilliss said he sent an email to board members before the group issued its statement Friday and asked them when they could meet before the Nov. 21 meeting. He expressed frustration that the four members would issue a statement displaying discord based on how quickly he responds to a request he supports.

“I do not have a desire to live on social media doing battle” with the four board members, Gilliss said.

ddonovan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/dougdonovan

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