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Baltimore County NAACP calls for ethics probe of state delegate for 'hang them high' Facebook comment

Anthony Fugett, president of the Baltimore county branch of the NAACP, and the Randallstown chapter president, Ray Moseley (not pictured), has asked state legislative ethics officials to investigate comments by Del. Robin Grammer that they believe refer to lynching.
Anthony Fugett, president of the Baltimore county branch of the NAACP, and the Randallstown chapter president, Ray Moseley (not pictured), has asked state legislative ethics officials to investigate comments by Del. Robin Grammer that they believe refer to lynching. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

The two Baltimore County chapters of the NAACP have asked state legislative ethics officials to investigate Del. Robin Grammer’s recent Facebook post that the groups called “racist and inflammatory” for what they said was a reference to lynching black public school administrators.

The two chapters petitioned the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which investigates complaints against lawmakers, “to take appropriate action” against Grammer for “alleged violations of public ethics laws,” according to a June 10 letter obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

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The Baltimore County and Randallstown offices of the NAACP simultaneously sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan asking him to remove his appointee, Michael Darenberg, from the county school board nominating commission, for initiating the conversation that led to Grammer’s comments.

Darenberg suggested last month on a Facebook group that remaining members of disgraced Baltimore County Schools CEO Dallas Dance’s leadership team should resign, saying: “If you do, we stop digging up dirt on you and you can move to another school system and take advantage of them.”

In response, Grammer wrote: “No deal. Hang them high and leave it for the village to see.”

Several elected officials, school administrators and the school board criticized the remarks. In a statement, the school board said it did “not approve of violent threats directed at anyone in our school community.”

Grammer, an Essex Republican, removed the comment and has apologized for his language to his fellow elected colleagues, saying it was “absolutely not” a reference to lynching. He said he has been trying to meet with the NAACP and hopes to sit down to formally apologize to its leaders.

“When you make a mistake you don’t get to write how your story plays out. If you’re a sincere person you do your best to make amends,” Grammer said. “It’s clearly not appropriate language. I’m doing my best to reach out to people I work with to reconcile that. Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to do that with the NAACP as well.”

Grammer previously said what he meant to say is that school officials who violate the public’s trust should be held accountable and not allowed to “sweep it under the rug” by leaving the district as Darenberg suggested.

Dance pleaded guilty last year to perjury for failing to disclose to the public and the school board that he earned $147,000 in consulting jobs while superintendent. He went to jail for four months. No other school official has been accused of a crime. And an audit completed earlier this spring did not find other wrongdoing by school officials.

Anthony S. Fugett, president of the Baltimore County NAACP, and Ray Moseley, president of the Randallstown NAACP, wrote in the June 10 letters that they were not satisfied with Grammer’s response, calling his comment “inappropriate and threatening.”

“Delegate Grammer posted racist and inflammatory statements on Facebook referencing the lynching of Baltimore County Public School administrators,” stated their letter to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

“What we find extremely troubling about Delegate Grammer’s remarks, is his total affront and insensitivity toward African Americans in Baltimore County,” they wrote. “We also call into serious question the sincerity of his alleged support of legislation establishing the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The commission was established by legislation passed this year to explore and address Maryland’s lynching history. Grammer voted in favor of establishing the commission.

“Given overwhelming public condemnation of Delegate Grammer’s Facebook comments,” the letter continued, “the Baltimore County NAACP and the Randallstown NAACP call on the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to take immediate appropriate action against him for alleged violations of the public ethics laws.”

In their letter to Hogan about Darenberg, Fugett and Moseley called on the governor to upgrade his vetting process for selecting people to serve on the school board’s nominating commission.

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“As Governor, you are obligated to ensure your appointees do not support or adhere to divisive, racist or prejudicial ideology that will prohibit complete and effective objectivity when making decisions that impact quality education for all Baltimore County students,” their letter to Hogan stated.

Darenberg did not provide a comment about the letter because he said he had not seen it.

Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said “the governor appreciates the letter” from the NAACP “and agrees that Mr. Darenberg’s comments were inappropriate.”

“We do not have the authority to rescind appointments to the commission except in very limited circumstances,” Ricci said in an email.

This is the first year that Baltimore County’s public schools have been governed by a hybrid elected-appointed board. Hogan appointed four members who joined seven members elected last year and one student board member. The governor was required to pick from a list of nine people recommended by the Baltimore County School Board Nominating Commission.

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