Former Baltimore County school superintendent Dallas Dance did not have a good track record of reporting paid consulting work as required by the district’s ethics code.
The school system’s ethics panel twice ruled he violated the code by failing to disclose two paying jobs, including one with a firm that had a contract with the district.
The Baltimore Sun reported this month that Dance also failed to report that in 2014 and 2015 he was paid by Education Research & Development Institute, or ERDI. The Chicago company brokers meetings between its paid roster of superintendents and education technology firms that pay to meet privately with the school leaders. Some of the companies had won no-bid contracts with the county school system during Dance’s tenure.
Dance did, however, disclose consulting work for 2016. He did so two weeks after he had announced his retirement on April 18.
But he did not disclose being paid by Education Research & Development Institute or by ERDI. Instead, Dance reported a different name: Dulle Enterprises.
Why the difference?
“When Dr. Dance provided services to ERDI, the formal business name was actually Dulle Enterprises, d/b/a (doing business as) ERDI; consequently, his compensation came from Dulle Enterprises,” Mike Hubbard, an ERDI official, wrote in an email to The Sun.
Hubbard said Dance had worked for the company from 2014 until the spring of this year.
But officials with the Illinois Secretary of State office told The Sun that Dulle Enterprises never officially reported that it does business under the names ERDI or Education Research & Development Institute.
“There is not an assumed name on file nor has there been one since the 2005 incorporation date” of Dulle Enterprises, a spokesperson for the Illinois office said.
To do business under an assumed name, companies must file specific paperwork and pay a fee, the spokesperson said.
Hubbard and ERDI chief operating officer Jonathan Dulle did not respond to subsequent requests seeking clarification. Dance also did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Jonathan Dulle is the son of Paul J. Dulle, the chairman of ERDI and former CEO. Dulle Enterprises is incorporated at a residential address outside Chicago owned by the elder Dulle.
ERDI’s website, however, makes no mention of Dulle Enterprises. ERDI’s history states that Education Research & Development Institute was started in 1985 by the late Michael Kneale. That corresponds with business records filed in Nebraska, which show Kneale started the company in 1985 and re-registered it in 1989.
In 2006, Kneale named Paul J. Dulle as the new CEO. Dulle incorporated Dulle Enterprises in Illinois in 2015.
Paul Dulle’s other son is Jeremy Dulle, a vice president at Discovery Education, a division of Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications, Hubbard confirmed. Discovery Education is an ERDI client and has had a no-bid $10 million contract with Baltimore County since 2013.
Jeremy Dulle’s LinkedIn profile states that he is based in Chicago and is “responsible for the management, development, and success of Discovery Education’s largest partnerships with school systems across the United States.”
A Discovery Communications spokesman said he could not comment on personnel questions.
Baltimore County School Board member Ann Miller said what is most troublesome is not that Dance failed to disclose the ERDI job. It’s that he had the job in the first place since Dance had agreed in 2014 — after a previous ethics violation — not to hold any more consulting jobs.
Previously, his contract required him to get the school board’s approval for such work. But in 2014 the board ruled that Dance had violated the ethics code by taking a consulting job with another Chicago-based company, SUPES Academy, a few months after the school system had given SUPES a contract to train principals.
Under school system’s rules, school officials charged with ethics violations can propose their own fix to resolve any violations. Dance proposed no longer accepting such work and the board agreed. But since he was not reporting his ERDI work, the board had no idea he already may have been violating that agreement, Miller said.
“It begs the question of whether ethics sanctions imposed by the board are effective,” Miller said. “You have a process that has broken down. How are we going to change our processes going forward?”