Dyer's term on school board coming to end amid ouster attempt

Allen Dyer's term on the Howard County school board is scheduled to expire Dec. 3, but it could end at any moment.

The outspoken Ellicott City lawyer, who lost his attempt for re-election in the primary earlier this year, is battling an attempt by his fellow members to legally oust him from the panel. The due date for a decision from the administrative law judge presiding over his case is Dec. 5.

The school board requested last year that the state school board remove Dyer, who has been accused of breaching confidentiality requirements and bullying. The matter was referred to the office of administrative hearings, and the subsequent hearing began in May and lasted through much of the summer.

This past week, officials at the office of administrative hearings would not say when or whether a decision would be rendered. They declined to comment further.

Dyer has failed at several attempts to have the case dismissed. It involves only his current term in office, and Dyer says he would appeal any decision to have him removed.

Yet while discussing the case and his four years on the board in an interview Monday, Dyer said he has not committed to running again regardless of the outcome of the case.

"To me, what has happened is a nightmare process that shouldn't be occurring," Dyer said. "During my term and throughout much of my campaigning on the board, I have always been in favor of a strong board. And a strong board doesn't mean that a majority of the board can get rid of other board members. My primary concern is that someone else might be put through this same ordeal."

When asked whether he would run again, Dyer said, "I'm not going to make that decision yet. I think that there's always silver linings in any situation you look at. The idea of serving a term and having a break gives a chance for reflection: 'How did you do during that four-year period, and what can I do with another term?' "

Dyer added that he will spend time rebuilding his law practice, adding, "When I am doing board work, that takes priority. My clients have to wait, and they have to be understanding. And the great majority of them were, but I have lost a couple of major clients as a result."

Dyer said he is proudest of the school board's recent apology for having once operated a segregated school system. Dyer had for more than a year led the effort, bringing it up in board motions that were initially struck down. He also helped lead the school system's efforts to put a world languages program, now in a pilot stage, in Howard elementary schools.

Some in the Howard community say that Dyer might be more effective in helping to shape school policy when he's no longer on the board.

Chris Wertman, immediate past president of the Howard County Community Advisory Council, pointed out that Dyer's repeated lawsuits against the board before he was elected may have undermined his ability to serve.

"I think he brought a lot of great ideas to the board. The unfortunate part is, because of the history he had prior to being elected, I think there was a certain tension and relationship with the other board members that even some of Allen's very good ideas were not accepted, and even discussed in any way until several new board members came on who would at least second his motion and allow for some level of discussion," he said.

"We lost as a community, and the board lost as an organization because some of those things were not discussed," Wertman added. "In some ways, Allen may be more productive as an outsider and not an insider because of the dynamics and relationship he had with other members of the board."

Former Howard County Council member Lloyd Knowles wondered how Dyer's departure might affect the way the board governs, saying, "I would imagine there will be less public understanding of any kind of problems that come up, and there will be more of 'Let's keep it within the family and try to work things out and if they don't, let's go along with the majority.' Too many boards adopt that kind of thing, and that's why they have whistle-blower laws in government and the commercial area."