Judge denies Dyer's motion for judgment, removal case proceeds

An administrative law judge Thursday denied Allen Dyer's motion for judgment in the case to have him removed from the Howard County Board of Education — a motion that would have effectively ended the administrative proceedings and sent the case to the State Board of Education.

"It is clear ... that the parties have many disagreements on the way to evaluate this case," said Douglas Koteen, the administrative law judge overseeing the hearings in Hunt Valley. "There are factual disputes, there are disagreements on interpretations of laws and how the laws apply here. ... I do not find there is sufficient basis to grant the motion."

Koteen's early-afternoon ruling came after more than three hours of arguments on the matter. Had Koteen approved Dyer's motion, the case would have moved to the State Board of Education, along with his recommendation on whether or not to remove Dyer.

In June 2011, the Howard County Board of Education voted to request the State Board remove Dyer from his seat on charges of misconduct. Dyer has been repeatedly at odds with the board majority on issues concerning transparency and the Open Meetings Act, confidentiality issues and records retention. Elected to the board in 2008, Dyer failed to move through the April primary. His term on the board ends in December.

In arguing for his motion, Dyer pointed to the Board of Education Handbook, presented as evidence by the board, and a manuscript written by the board in its "quasi-legislative" authority.

"The various allegations ... are almost instances of misconduct, but not quite," Dyer said in arguing for his motion. "That's important. ... It's like tinker toys, where if you have enough little instances of behavior, by themselves, are not sufficient basis for removal, but if you take all those instances of misbehavior and tack them all together, you all of a sudden have a valid reason ... many of those little tinker toy pieces deal with the quasi-legislative process."

Dyer said the allegations that he acted unilaterally against the board was also an invalid reason to remove him from the board. All he did, he said, was voice dissent and express his opinions.

"I have a right to say whether or not I agree with what my fellow board members are doing," he said. "I believe that's referenced in the Constitution."

Judith Bresler, the board's attorney, said the case was never about Dyer's right to free speech, but, at its core, about whether a single board member can force his views on public policy on the rest of the board.

"For somebody who I know has great respect for common law and what he calls the Anglo-American system of government, it is astounding to me that that view does not include the right to decision by majority vote," she said.

After Koteen's ruling, Dyer proceeded to present his case to the judge on the sixth day of hearings that began in May.

Dyer called Peter Sola, a professor in the department of educational administration and policy at Howard University, as his first witness, to deliver expert testimony.

Dyer asked Sola how he would describe the role of transparency in the functioning of a public school system.

"The idea of having meetings in private and then bringing out a decision may lead people to believe a deal was made, or that something was done that can't be done in public," Sola said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, that's not correct. ... When you work behind closed doors, there's an assumption the people who you serve don't understand it and so we take it away from them ... But in a county like Howard, you're not dealing with individuals that need to be protected from the truth. You're looking at individuals who are quite capable of understanding what is going on."

Hearings also are scheduled for Friday, July 3, July 6 and July 11.

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