Los Angeles Times

Dyer loses in school board primary, still faces ouster

Howard County school board member Allen Dyer, who is battling the board's attempts to oust him, lost his bid for re-election Tuesday, finishing eighth among 14 candidates in a primary in which the top six move on to the November election.

He will likely continue to face the possibility of being removed before his term expires.

Board Chairwoman Sandra French said Wednesday that the panel has no plans to withdraw its request that the state remove Dyer. A board majority voted to have him removed, saying, among other things, that he breached confidentiality requirements and bullied fellow board members.

The matter is before an administrative law judge; hearings are to begin next month.

"The board has not met to even discuss the issue. Currently the case will proceed according to the schedule that was set forth by the judge," French said. "If there is to be any change in our decision, we would have to have a meeting and discuss it."

Dyer said Wednesday that the attempt to oust him might have been part of the reason he lost in the primary.

"I don't think anyone can pinpoint any one reason. Elections are a result of many different factors," Dyer said. "But certainly a very significant, and in my opinion, the most significant contributing factor, is the fact that Janet Siddiqui, Ellen [Flynn] Giles, Frank Aquino and Sandie French voted to have board counsel submit a request to the state board to remove me from the board."

Siddiqui, who was chairman last year when the board requested Dyer's removal, led in Tuesday's primary vote, while Giles finished third. Howard County Board of Elections officials said Wednesday afternoon that absentee and provisional ballots had yet to be counted.

Dyer said he welcomes the administrative hearing, though he had tried to have the matter dismissed. He says the allegations made by the board are unfounded.

Dyer said Siddiqui and Giles should be required to explain under oath their decisions to vote in favor of requesting his removal.

"Let's duke it out and let the public see what they have to say," Dyer said. "If those allegations turned out to be unjustified, that needs to come out. It certainly needs to come out before the general election because ... Giles and Siddiqui have to face the voters in the general election, and I think that before they face the voters, they need to explain what they've done."

Giles said the majority of board members believed they were justified in seeking Dyer's ouster.

"We also agree that everything should come out as the proceedings go forward," she said. "The voters decided what they wanted based on the information they had before them. ... I guess I would concur with him that obviously if we're accountable to the public, the actions by the voters are their opinion of our ability to serve and go forward."

The personality clashes and infighting led to calls by community groups for board members to resolve their differences or step down.

Challengers had said during the primary campaign that they would work to improve the tenor of discussion, while incumbents argued that despite their differences, they preside over an effective system.

Siddiqui said of advancing to the general election, "I am pleased with the results so far, and I'm looking forward to continuing my work on the board for the children of Howard County."

Several newcomers made strong bids to gain one of the three school board seats up for election. Coming in second was Ann De Lacy, former president of the Howard County Education Association, a teachers union. Jackie Scott was fourth.

"It says to me that the voters are looking for a change in the Board of Education," De Lacy said.

Challengers David Gertler and Robert Ballinger, who ran unsuccessfully in the last school board election, were in fifth and sixth place, respectively.

"I'm truly honored to receive so much support from the community in this important election," Gertler said. "Meeting people from across the county and discussing ideas to improve our schools has been a wonderful experience."

Said Ballinger, "I am very excited to move on to the general election. I want to congratulate every candidate who sacrificed to ensure Howard County students get the best education possible."

Guy C. Mickley, director of the county's election board, said 18.9 percent of the county's registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday's primary. He said the turnout was "the lowest I've seen in a primary election the 16 years I've worked for the Board of Elections."

The vote came after attempts last fall by county Del. Frank Turner to pass legislation to create a hybrid school board of appointed and elected members, after some residents complained about what they viewed as a lack of racial and geographical diversity on the board. The board has one minority member and no member from the Elkridge area.

Two of the top four finishers in Tuesday's primary, De Lacy and Scott, are black. But none of the three candidates from the Elkridge area finished among the top eight.

Dyer said he has endorsed De Lacy. He said it is too soon to say whether he will seek office again.

The primary "was the first time I had been in an election as the incumbent," Dyer said. "I had a completely different feeling about the election. I was a bit surprised that there's such a big difference between being in an election where you are the challenger and trying to win an election position versus being someone who has actually served in that position.

"I had no feel for exactly how the election was going to go, one way or another."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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