Judge in Dyer's hearing says board's charges against him are not clear

The administrative law judge hearing the Howard County school board's case against fellow member Allen Dyer said Tuesday that Dyer's assertion that the board has not clearly spelled out its reasons for wanting him removed is "becoming increasingly more relevant."

At the end of the session, Dyer made a motion for Administrative Law Judge Douglas Koteen to dismiss the case. "No sitting board member should have to go through this," Dyer said.

Koteen, who denied a previous motion of Dyer's to dismiss, said that the matter would be revisited June 6, when the hearing reconvenes.

The Howard school board voted last June on a resolution requesting that the state board of education remove Dyer, citing, among other things, breaches of confidentiality requirements and bullying.

Dyer, whose term runs out this year, lost his bid for re-election in last month's primary. Tuesday marked the fifth day of the hearing, which has included testimony from school board members as well as school system staff.

The school board completed presenting its case against Dyer on Tuesday. When the hearing resumes, Dyer will call witnesses, including members of the school board. Dyer said he will testify as well.

Testimony on Tuesday centered on whether Dyer's use of lowercase lettering for names in emails to school board staff was offensive — an assertion made by school officials during the hearing.

Judith Bresler, attorney for the school board, said school board chair Sandra French had testified that she had found the emails offensive and objectionable but added, "I did not understand her testimony to be part of her rationale in voting in favor of his removal."

Koteen replied, "Well we have a problem here, because your charges are not clear. You presented five days of hearings, and it's still not entirely clear exactly what the board relied on, and that's the problem of proof for the board.

"The lack of notice," Koteen added, "that Mr. Dyer's been arguing from Day One is becoming increasingly more relevant as this hearing goes along for me, Mr. Dyer, and for anyone else to know exactly what the board relied on."

During cross-examination of French, Dyer asked her about several emails he had written to staff where he had used uppercase letters in some words; those words had been described in testimony as akin to shouting.

French acknowledged that once she had considered uppercase lettering in emails as being used for emphasis, as Dyer had previously claimed. But she said, "You do not use caps because it is considered to be screaming at a person."

The proceedings also centered on Dyer's repeated lawsuits against the board. Bresler asked French if she thought it was reasonable for a member to file a lawsuit against the school board if members disagree.

"No, it is not reasonable," said French.

During cross-examination, Dyer asked French if it was reasonable for a board member to file a lawsuit if the member "thinks the actions constitute a violation of Maryland or criminal law."

French replied, "I don't think it's reasonable to sue the board after the full democratic process has been followed because in your opinion you did not win."