Former Baltimore County school Superintendent Dallas Dance pleaded guilty Thursday to four counts of perjury for failing to disclose nearly $147,000 he earned from consulting jobs — including payments from a company he helped win a no-bid contract with the school system.
Prosecutors recommended a sentence of five years and want Dance to serve 18 months in jail. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 20, Dance’s 38th birthday.
Afterward, Dance quickly left the Baltimore County courtroom. His lead attorney said Dance would have no comment.
Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt read a statement of facts that laid out in detail the ways Dance repeatedly deceived the school board and manipulated the purchasing process to award a contract to a company that was paying him.
School system officials expressed disappointment and sadness at the revelations.
“I guess he had us all fooled,” said Lawrence E. Schmidt, who as school board chairman from 2011 to 2014 signed Dance’s first contract in 2012. “If someone is going to lie to your face, and lie on documents, it is very difficult to monitor that. He has brought dishonor not only on himself but on the public schools”
Dance — wearing a dark suit and seated between his two lawyers — followed along with his copy of the statement as Davitt read and later stood to tell Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen Cox that he admitted to the damaging timeline.
His criminal actions began shortly after he was hired as superintendent in July 2012, when he began negotiating for consulting work with executives of Chicago-based SUPES Academy. At the same time, he began to devise a plan to award a contract to the company, which had trained him in its aspiring-superintendents program a year before he was hired by Baltimore County.
He told SUPES executives that he needed to make more money because of his divorce.
“Keep me as busy as you can,” Dance told one SUPES official, Davitt said.
Dance vowed to a SUPES official that he would fire a Baltimore County school system employee if necessary to get a no-bid contract for SUPES, which the school board approved in December 2012. The company had begun paying Dance $90,000 as a consultant the month before.
After his consulting deal with the school contractor became public in media reports, Dance lied to ethics officials about the payments and begged SUPES officials not to provide documents about the job to the school system, Davitt said.
Dance told SUPES executives not to worry because the ethics panel has no subpoena power. He also said that if the company turned over any documents he “might as well kill himself,” the statement of facts said.
He provided false documents to the school system that showed any income he had earned was going to the school system’s education foundation. It was not, Davitt said.
Dance was charged in January with four counts of perjury, a criminal misdemeanor, for falsely stating on financial disclosure forms that he earned no money from his consulting company in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
The charges said he “willfully and falsely” submitted incomplete forms as part of a “scheme and plan to conceal the nature and extent of his outside business interests and conflicts of interest.”
An investigation by the state prosecutor’s office that began more than a year ago led to his indictment. Prosecutors say Dance was paid $146,697 as a consultant for two companies, four school districts and four educational nonprofits.
After hiring Dance as superintendent in Baltimore County, the nation’s 25th largest school system, the school board renewed his contract for four years in 2016. But then, last April, Dance abruptly resigned the $287,000-a-year job, citing the toll of the job on his family. It later emerged that the state prosecutor was investigating him.
The statement of facts to which Dance agreed provided new detail about his dealings with SUPES Academy, a now-defunct company that trained school administrators around the country.
It made clear that even before Dance formally became superintendent, SUPES executives — Gary Solomon, Thomas Vranas and Stephen Kupfer — began to seek business for the company with the county school system. The school board selected Dance on April 10, 2012, hired him as a consultant for the month of June and began his formal contract on July 1.
During that time “Dance communicated frequently by email, text message, telephone conversations and face-to-face meetings with Solomon and Kupfer regarding” how SUPES could get work with Baltimore County to train principals.
According to the statement, Dance instructed his director of leadership development, Anissa Brown-Dennis, to conduct discussions with the SUPES officials. On Aug. 1, 2012, the company submitted a proposal with prices, but Brown-Dennis responded by saying the school system would not pursue a contract.
Brown-Dennis declined to comment through a spokesman for Howard County schools, where she now works.
Dance assured SUPES officials he would deal with Brown-Dennis, even telling Solomon in a face-to-face meeting at an Oct. 18, 2012 conference in Indianapolis that “he was going to fire” her.
Days later Dance emailed Solomon his resume and said he was “anxious to get started working” but that a school system contract might require a request for bids. The company officials responded that they preferred to avoid a bid process. They said they had a series of SUPES projects that would be “keeping you busy.”
Two weeks later, Dance instructed the school system’s purchasing agent, Richard Gay, to find another school system that had an existing contract with SUPES that Baltimore County could “piggyback” — allowing the county to award the company business without seeking bids.
The school board approved the contract on Dec. 4, 2012. The first check from SUPES to Dance was on Nov. 30, 2012.
Both Solomon and Vranas were later convicted by federal prosecutors of bribing Chicago’s former superintendent, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was also found guilty in the scheme. She was accused of steering $23 million in school contracts to SUPES in exchange for money and gifts. All three were sentenced to federal prison last year.
In addition to his SUPES income, Dance failed to disclose payments he was getting from school districts in South Carolina, California, Rhode Island and New York. He also failed to disclose payments from other entities — including the Educational Research & Development Institute, a company that represents educational technology firms seeking to get contracts from school districts including Baltimore County.
The Baltimore Sun reported in November that Dance failed to disclose income he received from ERDI in 2014 and 2015.
The Sun also reported that interim Superintendent Verletta White failed to report income she received from ERDI from 2013 to 2016, when she was the school system’s chief academic officer. She later acknowledged she made a mistake, vowed to no longer perform consulting work and amended her disclosure forms to show she earned roughly $12,000 as a consultant.
White has not been charged with any crime.
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Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.