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Gov. Larry Hogan, Kevin Kamenetz trade barbs over Baltimore County school controversies

Gov. Larry Hogan, left, and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
Gov. Larry Hogan, left, and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (File photos / The Baltimore Sun)

Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday criticized Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz for not speaking out on two recent criminal convictions of senior schools officials.

“The school board, the county council members and legislators are saying: What’s going on?” Hogan said in an interview. “I haven’t heard a word out of the county executive who is responsible for it all. Where is he?”

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Kamenetz’s office offered a written response to Hogan’s comments from chief of staff Don Mohler: “That’s ridiculous, the County Executive has been crystal clear on the issue of accountability. Once again, the governor is attacking County Executive Kamenetz. Hmm … I wonder why?”

The guilty plea of former Baltimore County schools chief Dallas Dance on Thursday led to renewed calls for an independent investigation into the school system.

Kamenetz is among seven leading candidates running for the Democratic nomination for governor in hopes of unseating Hogan, a Republican. The two have feuded in recent years about issues including air conditioning in schools and whether to spray for midges on the Back River.

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The county executive has not spoken extensively about the recent criminal cases of two former top schools officials: Dallas Dance, the former superintendent who pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury in county court; and Robert J. Barrett, executive officer for community affairs, who pleaded guilty to a federal tax charge.

Dance’s plea admitted to not reporting being a paid consultant for a company he helped to win a no-bid contract.

Gov. Larry Hogan and his top aides put on a show of force in Baltimore County Monday, holding a “regional cabinet meeting” and conducting nearly 100 tours and meetings in the county.

Barrett pleaded guilty to taking cash payments from undercover federal agents posing as out-of-town businessmen seeking help with business opportunities, and not reporting the income on his tax return.

Dance is scheduled to be sentenced April 20. Barrett’s sentencing is scheduled for May.

Of Dance, Kamenetz said in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed in Dr. Dance. Public officials need to be held to a higher standard of conduct.”

Regarding Barrett, Kamenetz issued a statement saying: “Mr. Barrett was not employed by me and the only contact he would have had with my administration was in his role with the Education Foundation. We are not aware of any contacts he might otherwise claim.”

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has selected former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin as his running mate in the race for governor, bringing a progressive voice from the Washington suburbs to his effort to win the Democratic nomination.

Other elected officials and candidates have called for actions, such as conducting an independent audit of the school system, reforming ethics rules and tightening contracting procedures. Hogan has used the Baltimore County cases to advance legislation he has proposed to establish a state “investigator general” to investigate public school issues.

The governor said Wednesday that the Baltimore County cases are “outrageous and very concerning.”

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