An ethics complaint against Howard County Board of Education member Allen Dyer was quietly dismissed last month, but Dyer's conflicts with the board are reportedly far from over.
Dyer had been accused of promising to increase the power of the school board’s student representative from having partial to full voting rights in exchange for the student’s support of Dyer’s bid to become school board chairman.
But both an ethics panel and the school board dispatched the complaint within minutes during a closed meeting, finding no violation, according to minutes of the meeting released by Dyer.
However, late Thursday, Explorehoward.com reported that the school board voted 5-2 to request that the Maryland State Department of Education remove Dyer from his board position.
The resolution was reportedly introduced by board member Frank Aquino, who charged that Dyer had breached confidentiality by releasing information from a closed meeting that named the student board member.
According to Maryland state law, the State Board of Education must give a board member 10 days to request a hearing before taking any action.
The original ethics complaint against Dyer accused him of violating a policy banning board members from using “the prestige of their offices for their own private gain or that of another.”
The complaint appears to have stemmed from conversations and correspondence Dyer and others allegedly had with student representative Alexis Adams in late 2010, prior to the board's election of a chairperson.
Dyer did not win the seat.
The school system did not publicly acknowledge that there was an ethics complaint against Dyer. News of the complaint leaked out in March 2011 on local blog Tales of Two Cities, and Dyer subsequently released related documents.
Dyer and his attorney released copies last week of the ethics panel’s decision and a transcript of its hearing on the case.
“This entire complaint and the way it has worked out through the ethics regulations and proceedings has interfered with my ability to work with my fellow board members, and particularly with the student member,” Dyer said in an interview with Patch before the vote to oust him. “That's where there is a serious problem.”
Dyer has lost seven of nine lawsuits he has filed against the board on which he serves. A chart listing the cases and their outcomes accompanies this article.
Dyer said his cases have made a point.
“The board hasn’t won,” he said. “The board has lost and the board has lost dramatically—lost the ability to receive guidance from the court.”
Dyer said that the intent of his lawsuits is to clarify what he believes are subjective rules surrounding transparency in the statute that created the school board.
“If you step back from the court and look at the next level … I am trying to improve the operation of the board,” he said. “The board doesn’t win when a question is not answered.”
Dyer said the debate over the lawsuits, which has led some to describe the board as “dysfunctional,” has been an “excellent discussion.”
Janet Siddiqui, chairwoman of the Howard County School Board, disagreed.
“I don’t see any benefits at all,” Siddiqui said of the suits filed by Dyer. “It continues to strain relationships between board members. The distraction continues to be a thorn in our side.”
According to county school system attorney Mark Blom, the board has spent more than $439,000 on legal costs since 2001, when Dyer filed his first suit alleging the board violated laws requiring meetings be open to the public. An initial 2001 lawsuit is responsible for a majority of that money, costing the board about $372,755. At the time, Dyer was not a member of the board.