Peacemaking effort paved way for ex-union chief's challenge Teachers' leader accepted Dandridge's dues check

May 16, 1998|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

An attempt to make peace within the fractious Baltimore Teachers Union has set the stage for the BTU's former president to challenge the union's power structure that once embraced her.

The peacemaking effort came in the form of a letter that BTU President Marietta A. English sent Feb. 2 to Irene B. Dandridge, agreeing to accept Dandridge's check for union dues covering October through January.

In court filings, Dandridge maintains that the acceptance of the check reinstated her as a member of the BTU and makes her eligible to run Tuesday against English and four other candidates for the union's top position.

BTU attorneys say English made a mistake in accepting the dues, that she returned the payment in a March 10 letter and that she advised Dandridge that she was no longer an active member of the union.

Dandridge is not on the ballot but has asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to halt the election until the dispute is resolved.

A decision could come Monday.

Christyne L. Neff, a BTU lawyer, said at an April 30 Baltimore Circuit Court hearing that English accepted the dues in an attempt to "heal a political rift" between Dandridge and English's predecessor, Marcia Brown, who ousted Dandridge in a 1996 election.

BTU attorney Joel A. Smith said the union's executive board correctly found that Dandridge is not an active union member and is not eligible to run for the office.

Smith said Baltimore Circuit Judge David B. Mitchell ruled correctly April 30 when he rejected Dandridge's request for an injunction.

"The decision of Judge Mitchell was entirely correct and consistent with established Maryland law," Smith said.

Five candidates are on the ballot for Tuesday's election: English, Peggy J. Waller, Charles A. Dugger, Adolph McDonald and Margo Young.

About 180 candidates are running for offices in the election, Smith said, which is scheduled to be held at six school sites.

Pub Date: 5/16/98

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