Allen Dyer, the former Howard County Board of Education member who was ousted during the 2012 primaries in the midst of impeachment proceedings, has filed to run for the board.
Dyer filed Monday, Feb. 24, a day before the Feb. 25 deadline. He said he decided to run for the board again on Sunday, after a lengthy conversation with his wife.
"Public education is very important to me," he said. "It's where I came from. I think I'm doing what I should be doing in offering to do what I can. I served four years with this board, and I'm fairly familiar with how it operates and how it doesn't operate. I think I would be valuable for another term. But I don't have any illusions about it."
Dyer was first elected to the board in 2008 on his fourth run for a seat. But after repeatedly butting heads with the board majority — before his election and during his term, Dyer was involved in several suits against the board — the board in June 2011 voted to ask the State Board of Education to remove Dyer from his seat, alleging instances of bullying and misconduct.
The board members who voted for Dyer's impeachment — Frank Aquino, Sandra French (both up for re-election), Ellen Giles and Janet Siddiqui — are still sitting members of the board, though Siddiqui is running for a state delegate seat in District 13.
The case went before the Office of Administrative Hearings where, more than a year-and-a-half later, Judge Douglas Koteen recommended that the board's request to remove Dyer be upheld. But Dyer had already lost a re-election bid in April 2012, and his term expired that fall. The state board upheld Dyer's removal in May 2013 — about six months after he left the board.
"He has the right to do this — nothing in the impeachment bars him from running for the board," Giles said. "So I wish him luck."
Repeated attempts by Dyer to have the decision reversed have failed; in June 2013, the Court of Special Appeals dismissed Dyer's challenge to the state board's authority on the matter, and in November 2013, Howard County Circuit Court Judge Louis A. Becker said he would reserve a final decision on the same matter (no timetable was set) but agreed that the state board did have the right to remove Dyer, though given that Dyer is out of office any judgment would be moot.
Dyer said he stands by his actions, like revealing accurate information surrounding an ethics charge against him in 2011, after false information had already been leaked to the public, or sharing legal advice deemed confidential by the board.
"My number one goal isn't to be the best buddy of any board member, but to be responsive to the people who vote for me and do what's in their best interest," he said. "Sometimes that means ruffling some feathers."
Dyer also said he was spurred to run for the board again after seeing Superintendent Renee Foose in action. Foose has been superintendent since July 2012, about five months before Dyer left office.
"I think Dr. Foose is very interested in charting an aggressive direction for the future, and that has me excited," Dyer said. "I think the four years I was on the board, the board was interested in treading water. When Dr. Foose came in, there was an effort to talk to parents, to the public, to come up with a plan for going forward for the future and I'm excited about that."
Dyer joins a field of candidates that includes incumbents French, Cindy Vaillancourt, former candidates Leslie Kornreich, Corey Andrews and newcomers Dan Furman, Mike Smith, Tom Baek, Bess Altwerger and Maureen Evans Arthurs. As Tuesday afternoon, incumbents Aquino and Brian Meshkin had yet to file with the Board of Elections. There are four open seats on the seven-member board this year, as incumbents Aquino, French, Meshkin and Vaillancourt are up for re-election.
County Council member Courtney Watson, who served on the school board before Dyer's 2008 election and who is running for county executive, said "there should be a number of candidates for voters to choose from, and democracy is great because it allows anyone to run for office. But it's up to the voters to be informed about the candidates."
County Council member Mary Kay Sigaty, who also served on the school board before Dyer's term, said that for a school board, just as for the council, "people do have to respect each other, and absolutely there can be disagreement. There really has to be a level of respect among each of the members, and more so in relation to the Board of Education there has to be a respect of the institution, because the Board of Education is the elected authority. Each individual is not elected separately."
Sigaty continued: "As council members we represent certain districts, and we as council members are more autonomous than Board of Education members are. So I think it's important, when people think about running for the Board of Education, that people see themselves as part of a whole instead of as individuals. That's the hardest thing to do, I think, is to recognize that once you win, you are part of a whole and your allegiance for your constituency are not the people who voted you in but the children of Howard County."
Dyer said he thinks it would be easier to work with other school board members now.
"The board has changed some and I think that we've had our round-abouts, and even the people who voted to impeach me know that there's lessons to be learned there," he said.
When it comes to the democratic process, Dyer said, disagreements should be accepted and celebrated.
"When it comes to our children, we're going to fight for what's best for them, for these very important issues," he said. "It's not just dollars and cents, it's our future. It's only natural for there to be strong disagreements. We're fortunate to have a democratically elected board in this county so everyone gets their chance to cast their votes and watch their candidates fight."
The primary is June 24.