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No settlement reached in Howard school board case against Dyer

An administrative law judge offered the parties in the dispute between the Howard County school board and board member Allen Dyer a chance to resolve the matter, but after nearly three hours of closed-door discussions Thursday the sides failed to reach a settlement.

The case got under way in May, after the county school board requested last year that the Maryland State Board of Education remove Dyer, accusing him of bullying board members and central office staff and breaching confidentiality requirements. Dyer denies the allegations.

On Thursday, both sides presented their case before Judge Neile Friedman, who then met with each side privately. Both sides were summoned for a final meeting and left the courtroom moments later without reaching a deal.

"We tried our best to find areas of commonality, and in the end, despite everyone's best efforts, we were unable to agree on a resolution," said Frank Aquino, the school board's vice chairman, who drafted the resolution for Dyer's dismissal passed by the school board.

"Despite solid, good-faith efforts by the settlement judge, two parties were just simply too far apart to settle this matter," said Dyer, who had failed in earlier attempts to have the case dismissed.

The case will move forward, with school board attorney Judith Bresler submitting a written brief Aug. 9 and Dyer presenting his brief Aug. 30. Bresler would then submit a final brief Sept. 6.

Administrative Law Judge Douglas Koteen, who has heard the case leading up to Thursday, has 90 days to submit a recommended decision to the state board and both parties.

In some cases, the board will permit either or both parties to file objections, Bresler said. The sides could respond to the objections and the state board would schedule an oral argument. Then the state board would render its decision. Dyer has said that if the board rules against him, he would appeal.

Dyer's school board term ends in early December; he lost a bid for re-election in the April primary. His case could still be pending when his term ends.

"This is a very atypical case. These type of circumstances are very rare," said Wayne Brooks, the office of administrative hearings' deputy director of operations. Brooks suggested that the case might require an opinion by the state attorney general should it extend past Dyer's term.

Officials at the Maryland State Board of Education declined to comment.

David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland attorney general's office, said the school board or county government could ask that the attorney general's office issue an advisory opinion. He said the state school board could also make such a request.

Aquino said he "did not necessarily foresee" the case extending beyond Dyer's term in office.

"The board tried to move this along as quickly as possible, and there were a variety of things outside of its control with respect to scheduling," he said.

Asked what he would do if the case is still open after his term ends, Dyer said, "This particular case is unprecedented, and I believe that the entire process needs to be reviewed and questions have to be asked about whether or not any elected Board of Education member should be subjected to this process ever again."

jburris@baltsun.com

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