A member of the Baltimore County school board has filed a Public Information Act request to get more information about Superintendent Dallas Dance’s contract renewal. The board voted in February to renew his contract, but the details are still being negotiated.
Ann Miller said in the request that she had earlier submitted 17 questions about the contract and only four were answered.
“Despite concerns raised by board members and stakeholders regarding the superintendent’s relationships with tech-ed companies, extensive time and travel on promotional speaking engagements across the country, legal and ethical issues, and unanswered questions, the majority of the Board seems to be moving hastily and blindly toward a vote of approval on the contract submitted by the superintendent and his personal attorney,” she wrote.
A BCPS spokesman said, “The school system has a process for handling and responding to all PIA requests and will follow the law, school board policies and appropriate procedures.”
This is the second Public Information Act request she has filed; in January she also filed a request related to Dance’s contract.
Her April 25 letter states:
The purpose of the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) is to allow the public access to government documents, not to allow public bodies to hide behind the exceptions to the law. Although the law allows for certain exceptions, a public body can still CHOOSE to disclose information that would fall under exceptions even though the law cannot FORCE them to disclose it. The practice of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) has been consistently to withhold information unless the law requires disclosure. This practice is not only adverse to transparent government, but fosters a distrust among the public which the school system is supposed to be serving. BCPS then spends an excessive amount of time, money, and resources in trying to undo these negative consequences of its actions through PR and Communications.
The response I received, just hours prior to the votes on both the budget and the renewal of the superintendent’s employment contract, to my MPIA request of 1/19/16 was nothing short of a travesty, a dereliction of duty, and a violation of the law, as I outlined in my letter of April 7, 2016. The very fact that a board member is forced to resort to submitting a MPIA in order to get information necessary to do her duty as a member of the board is indicative of deeply-rooted and far-reaching ethical and operational issues within BCPS and the Board of Education of Baltimore County (Board). The estimated fee charge of $5,585.27 in order to fulfill some of my January request is a brazen insult to the public trust and the value being placed on the role of the board as an oversight and directive entity.
Please consider this to be a request under the Maryland Public Information Act, Annotated Code of Maryland, state Government Article 10-611 to 630. I make this request as a citizen of Maryland and a member of the Board of Education of Baltimore County.
The Board is now considering the details of the renewal employment contract for the superintendent. Chairman McDaniels asked members to submit their information requests, which I did on March 7. Only four of my 17 questions were answered in full or at all, on April 7. Despite concerns raised by board members and stakeholders regarding the superintendent’s relationships with tech-ed companies, extensive time and travel on promotional speaking engagements across the country, legal and ethical issues, and unanswered questions, the majority of the Board seems to be moving hastily and blindly toward a vote of approval on the contract submitted by the superintendent and his personal attorney. Indeed, the more questions are raised, the more urgency is put toward an approval vote by the board majority.
Please provide the following to the entire Board, before the May 10 board meeting if possible:
1. Documentation which shows the total amount paid by the Board for the superintendent’s salary and all benefits, itemized, from July 2012 to present including: salary, pension, automobile, gasoline, auto insurance, retirement plans, reimbursement for state pensions, personal protection, unused vacation days, disability income insurance, life insurance, health insurance, communication allowance, business expenses, membership organizations.
2. Cite any provision of law which permits the superintendent to hold any outside employment, given MD Code 4-202 which requires “full time devotion to public school business”.
3. Cite any provision of law or of the superintendent’s employment contract which permits the superintendent to make promotional videos on behalf of corporations or other outside entities, given 12.1 of the second amendment to his employment contract which states “Notwithstanding any provisions contained herein, the Superintendent shall not engage in any outside consulting engagements or relationships.”
4. Dr. Dance’s Financial Disclosure Forms for the years 2011 to 2015. 5. Annual approval requests to the Board for Dr. Dance’s professional and civic organization membership and costs as required by the superintendent’s employment contract for 2012 to present.
6. Documentation showing reimbursements to the superintendent or payments made directly by the Board for any and all professional and civic organization memberships from 2012 to present.
7. The written approvals by the Board required by the superintendent’s employment contract for any and all events in which Dr. Dance participated from 2012 to present.
8. Itemized expense statements for expense reimbursements of any kind and the approvals from the Board, as required by the superintendent’s employment contract 7.1, from 2012 to present.
9. Notifications and prior approvals for professional development programs and activities and reimbursements for same as required by the superintendent’s employment contract 7.2 for 2012 to present.
10. Notification, prior approvals, and reimbursements or payments for business and professional meetings as required by the superintendent’s employment contract 7.3 for 2012 to present.
11. Annual superintendent performance evaluations from 2012 to present as required by the superintendent’s employment contract 8.1.
12. Copies of prior board approvals for outside activities, including teaching, private consulting, speaking engagements, acceptance of appointments to foundations, boards, or commissions, as required by the superintendent’s employment contract 12.1 for 2012 to present.
13. Annual reports to the board of all outside activities in which he engaged during the preceding year, for the years 2012 to present, as required by the superintendent’s employment contract 12.1.
14. Documentation showing any expense reimbursement to the Board for outside activities in which the superintendent received any honoraria or compensation as required by the superintendent’s employment contract Section 12.1 for 2012 to present, along with the express written approvals of the Board.
15. Documentation showing any compensation, profit or royalty received by the superintendent for authoring or publishing research or scholarly work using data or referencing the activities of the school system as required by the superintendent’s employment contract 12.2 for 2012 to present.
16. Documentation showing days which the superintendent took as vacation, holidays or other days off from 2012 to present.
17. Documentation or correspondence by or between Board employees regarding Dr. Dance’s profile on Orate from 2015 to present.
Thank you for your prompt assistance with this pressing matter.
cc: Members of the Board of Education of Baltimore County, Andrew Nussbaum, Andrea Barr, Lisa Kerschner
The letter can also be viewed here.