One-time adversary Dyer sees smooth transition to member of school board

November 23, 2008|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,john-john.williams@baltsun.com

Allen Dyer's relationship with the school board is about to undergo a metamorphosis.

In recent years, the Ellicott City attorney has been an adversary, bringing several lawsuits on claims ranging from an illegal firing to violations of open-meeting requirements.

But now, with one legal action pending and after winning one of the three contested seats this month, Dyer, 61, is about to assume a position on the board with which he has done battle.

He said he is expecting a smooth transition.

"I don't expect any type of awkwardness," Dyer said of working with board members. "They are elected officials; they know what they are supposed to be doing. There is no personal animosity there."

When county officials finished counting provisional and absentee ballots in the days after the election, Dyer's vote count left him in third place among six candidates, behind current members Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Flynn Giles.

Dyer has plenty of history with the board.

In November 2000, he sued the board in Circuit Court claiming multiple violations of the state's Open Meetings Act. As a result, legislation was passed to strengthen enforcement of the law.

Dyer also represented four residents questioning potential water contamination and other environmental concerns related to a 400-seat addition at Glenelg High School. An administrative judge ruled against Dyer's clients in that case.

More recently, Dyer has represented Bruce M. Venter, the school system's former chief business officer, who was dismissed by then-Superintendent John R. O'Rourke in September 2003. O'Rourke said Venter failed to inform him, top-ranking administrators and the board that construction of Marriotts Ridge High School was off schedule. Venter sued in 2003, and the case is before the Court of Special Appeals.

With the election outcome, Dyer has filed a motion to remove himself as Venter's attorney. Dyer said he will also recuse himself as a voting member should the board take any action on Venter's case.

In an unrelated matter, Dyer filed a complaint with the Open Meetings Act and Compliance Board, part of the attorney general's office. The complaint alleged that the public was not notified in a timely manner about a meeting between the board and the County Council. The board ruled against Dyer, a decision that was upheld on appeal.

Still, Dyer said he is confident that the past will not adversely affect working with his new colleagues.

"Just because someone else has a different stance, you are required to work with them," he said. "That is your job." Board members echoed Dyer's sentiments.

"All of Allen's actions are to improve communication with the public," Giles said. "I would hope when we are all together we should be able to do that cooperatively."

Board Chairman Frank Aquino, who ran in two previous board elections with Dyer, sees a typical transition for a new member.

"I don't expect any issues with Allen that we would expect from any other new board member," Aquino said. "He will do his best to represent the community."

Dyer pledged that he won't rubber stamp every decision just to go along with the rest of the board.

"We'll have disagreements," he said. "I hope to shake things up a little bit. I expect to be a voice of dissent periodically. I don't have to have everything go my way."

Dyer attributed his election victory to stepping up his campaigning, compared with his previous races. This time, Dyer said, he worked closely with a dedicated group of volunteers. He also did a TV commercial for the first time.

"I had a lot of people who were working with me," he said. "I had a lot of people telling me what I was doing wrong."

Dyer enlisted the advice of several political figures in the county, including Del. Elizabeth Bobo and Ken Stevens, a member of Democracy for Howard County, which is affiliated with Democracy for America, the grass-roots organization that was formed from Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004.

"They were very supportive," he said. "It was all these little things coming from people."

Democracy for Howard County approached Dyer a couple of months ago about passing out literature containing information about other candidates' stances on issues, he said. The group endorsed Dyer and helped with his campaign.

"I jumped at the chance," he said.

Dyer may get a warm enough welcome from the board, but one former candidate is not so favorably disposed toward him. Diane Butler, who finished fourth in the race, said information in the campaign literature distributed by Dyer was taken out of context and cost her the election. Dyer has said that the language in the literature was taken verbatim from Butler's answer to a candidate survey distributed this year.

allen dyer

Age: 61

Place of Birth: Tacoma, Wash.

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Graduated from Lincoln High School in Seattle, Wash., in 1964; the Air Force Academy in 1968; the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976

Family: Married to wife Tamara since 1968; two children: Abe, 27, and Ann Marie, 23.

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