School staff violated contract Employees not allowed to use county equipment for election purposes

September 30, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Old Court Middle School employees violated their contract when they used school equipment to produce a flier seeking campaign workers for failed state Senate candidate -- and Baltimore County school board member -- Robert F. Dashiell, school officials say.

Though none of the workers has been disciplined, school officials say they will remind employees about the rules against using school equipment and work time for political activities.

"We've got some employees who need to understand more clearly what conduct is appropriate on school grounds," said Donna G. Flynn, Northwestern-area superintendent, adding that the violations were not intentional. "The bottom line is [that] you're not supposed to be creating those kinds of materials."

Neither the county school board nor state election authorities have taken action against Dashiell for the Old Court incident, in which workers were paid $125 each election night for their work at the polls -- a possible violation of state election law.

"I don't have any information yet on this member's conduct," said board President Dunbar Brooks, who added that ethical questions about school board members are the jurisdiction of state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Ronald A. Peiffer, assistant state superintendent, said that no complaints have reached Grasmick about Dashiell and that she is not looking at the incident.

Dashiell, a Democrat who lost his primary challenge to incumbent state Sen. Delores G. Kelley by a more than 2-1 margin, insists that his campaign did nothing improper and that no school employees were coerced to work.

"If I wanted to use my position on the school board to get people to work for me, I wouldn't have had to pay anyone," he said. "I didn't do that because I didn't want questions raised."

But Mark S. Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, is disturbed by the incident. "My concern is what a board member has done or not done. A teacher is a pawn," he said.

A flier apparently produced by some Old Court employees on school equipment asked those interested in working as "election assistants" to call Dr. Bernitha George, a former county official for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who worked as Dashiell campaign coordinator. About half a dozen of those who responded were paid for their work.

Flynn said school employees created the flier to alert fellow workers of a chance to make some money on their day off, which is allowed under the union contract.

But the contract prohibits "the use of the school's stenographic help, telephones, or equipment" for political campaign work.

Former candidate Dashiell filed two overdue campaign finance reports last week showing that he had raised more than $84,000 by Aug. 31, and had $22,231 left. Most of the money came from Dashiell's current and former private law clients, he said.

His greatest expense was $33,750 spent on campaign salaries and other compensation, nearly all to Politics Today Inc., his campaign manager Julius Henson's political consulting firm.

Dashiell has yet to pay $440 in late fees for his finance reports, say officials. "Filing reports on time is elementary," said Dashiell. "That is one of the most fundamental responsibilities. I feel very bad about that."

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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