Baltimore County school board declines to release ethics report of Interim Superintendent White

Liz Bowie
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

In the middle of a debate this month about who will be Baltimore County’s next school superintendent, county school board member Ann Miller revealed something about Interim Superintendent Verletta White that hadn’t been made public before.

Miller said one of the two violations for which the board’s ethics panel cited White involved using the “prestige of [her] office.”

The school system had not previously used those words to describe White’s violations.

In a statement in February, the board said White’s first violation was for not reporting consulting work on her financial disclosure forms, and the second was for accepting compensation for the consulting work. White later corrected the forms and said she would not do consulting work again while serving as superintendent.

The issue of White’s ethics violations has arisen because the school board could vote as early as Tuesday on whether White should be named the district’s permanent superintendent beginning July 1. Her interim contract ends on June 30.

The board has voted to spend $75,000 to hire a firm to conduct a national search.

Miller believes White’s ethics violations should preclude her from getting the job of superintendent.

“If we received a bunch of applications we would naturally weed out ones that have ethical violations. We should exclude anyone who has any ethical violations,” Miller said at the school board’s last meeting on April 3. “Ms. White has two for financial nondisclosure and use of prestige in office.”

According to the school system’s ethics code, “a school official may not intentionally use the prestige of office or public position for private gain of that official or the private gain of another.”

White has acknowledged receiving money from Educational Research and Development Institute, a company that represents educational technology firms seeking to get contracts from school districts including Baltimore County. She said she didn’t fill out the forms correctly because they were confusing.

The disclosure followed questions about former Superintendent Dallas Dance’s work as a consultant for the same company and others. Dance pleaded guilty in federal court last month to four counts of perjury for failing to disclose nearly $147,000 he earned from consulting jobs, including a company he helped win a no-bid contract with the school system. He is set for sentencing Friday.

The Baltimore Sun filed a Maryland Public Information Act request for a copy of White’s ethics panel report. But the school system denied the request, saying the report is confidential and privileged.

The Sun also requested the information directly from Edward Gilliss, the school board chair, as well as White. Mychael Dickerson, the school system’s chief of staff, referred to the press release that was sent out in February that said there were two violations.

In the release, the board said that White had agreed to amend her disclosure forms and to not take any future consulting work, and the public can be assured “that the conduct of public business is not subject to improper influence or the appearance of improper influence and that White’s impartiality and independent judgment will be maintained.”

Dickerson said that was “more detail than the superintendent had to allow to be released, but out of a desire to be transparent and open she requested that the details of the report and her solutions be provided.”

The full report is part of White’s personnel file, he said, “but I assure you it covers the same information provided” in the press release.

Miller said she cannot make the ethics panel recommendations public, but said the press release issued by the board chairman “was misleading and doesn’t use the actual language ‘use of prestige of office.’ ”

“It made it sound like there were only multiple counts of one violation: failure to disclose,” she wrote in an email to The Sun.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lizbowie

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