Monthly Archives: September 2017

Baltimore County schools parents express concern over Dallas Dance investigation

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Sources have told The media that state prosecutors are investigating former Baltimore County school superintendent Dallas Dance and his relationship with a company that did business with the school system.

Some parents expressed concern Monday that a former Baltimore County school superintendent is being investigated in connection with his relationship with a company that did business with the school system.

“Children learn to lead from their leaders and this is a huge disappointment,” said Yara Cheikh, a parent activist. “Families need to know that our school system is working for the best possible outcomes for children and not profit.”

Numerous other parents and teachers commented on Facebook pages, expressing anger and criticizing the school board for having given Dance a second, four-year contract.

The Baltimore Sun reported Friday that the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation of Dance more than six months ago, issuing a subpoena for school system records, and this month several people associated with the system were interviewed by investigators, sources said.

The investigation was well under way, sources said, when Dance announced in April that he was resigning as superintendent with three years left on his four-year contract. He offered no reason but later cited the burdens of the job.

According to sources, state prosecutors have been delving into Dance’s involvement with SUPES Academy, a now-defunct Illinois-based company that trained principals in school districts across the country, including Baltimore County. The sources spoke to The Baltimore Sun on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. No one has been charged in connection with the investigation.

In 2014, school system ethics officials ruled that Dance had violated ethics rules by taking a part time job with SUPES after the company got an $875,000 contract with the Baltimore County school system. The school board didn’t know Dance was working for SUPES until The Baltimore Sun wrote an article about the arrangement in December 2013.

Dance said after the ethics ruling that he should have exercised better judgment. “I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I realize that the relationship did create a conflict,” he said.

State legislative auditors later faulted the school system for not seeking a competitive bid before hiring the company.

SUPES Academy first came under scrutiny in Chicago when federal investigators looked at its dealings with the Chicago school system. In 2015, a co-owner of SUPES Academy and a former Chicago school superintendent were indicted on corruption charges. In part, the SUPES official was accused of offering bribes to the superintendent, who allegedly agreed to accept them. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison this year.

Sen. James Brochin, a Democrat representing Baltimore County, expressed his disappointment that Dance is the subject of a criminal investigation.

“If it turns out to be true, it is very disappointing. I just think when you get into public service it is supposed to be that,” said Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat.

Cheikh said the investigation raises questions about “the validity and ethics of other contracts negotiated” under Dance’s tenure.

Abby Beytin, president of the Teacher’s Association of Baltimore County, said she has no way of knowing whether Dance will be found to have done something wrong, and that there should be a presumption that he is innocent.

“If they feel there is something there, then they should be exploring it.”

School activists in Virginia on Monday called into question a contract that Dance had in Richmond that began several days after he left Baltimore County. Dance was hired by the Richmond public schools under a contract that critics say the Richmond school system should have made public. And officials should have sought the approval of the school board, critics said.

The Richmond school district paid Dance $25,000 in July and August to help an interim superintendent while the district sought a permanent replacement.

“As an experienced superintendent, Dance provided leadership and instructional advice,” the district said in a statement.

Via Baltimore Sun

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Prince George’s County Couple Frustrated After PGCPS School Bus Hits SUV

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A Prince George’s County couple is upset after a school bus hit their SUV at a stop sign. News4’s Tracee Wilkins reports the school system said it would be weeks before they could pay for the repairs. >>> Review the story here 

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Ex-PGCPS school aide gets 100 years in child porn case

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Deonte Carraway pleaded guilty to 23 of the 270 criminal charges of sex abuse of a minor, sex offenses and child pornography he was facing in Prince George’s County

A former Prince George’s County school aide was sentenced to 100 years in prison Thursday for taking and sharing cellphone video of children performing sex acts.

Deonte Carraway pleaded guilty to 23 of the 270 criminal charges of sex abuse of a minor, sex offenses and child pornography he was facing in Prince George’s County.

His 100-year sentence will run concurrently with his federal sentence of 75 years.

“It is impossible to measure the pain that this case has caused,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said. “Hearing the story of the mother who has to wake up every night because her son has nightmares.”

Alsobrooks said Carraway made a statement expressing his remorse during the sentencing, but he seemed detached from the proceedings.

Prosecutors say the abuse began in the fall of 2015 and continued for more than a year inside Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary, where Carraway volunteered. He also reportedly recorded sex abuse videos in the homes of his victims and at the Glenarden Community Center.

Carraway was arrested in February 2016 after the uncle of a 9-year-old boy saw a nude image on the child’s phone, police said. Investigators then linked the aide to other victims in the case.

Last month, Carraway was sentenced to 75 years in prison for 15 federal charges of sexual exploitation of a minor to produce child pornography.

He admitted in his plea agreement that he engaged in sex acts with children and used a cellphone to record the acts. He also told the children to perform sex acts with each other and gave them phones to record the acts.

Source: Ex-School Aide Sentenced to 100 Years in Sex Abuse Case – NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Ex-School-Aide-to-Appear-in-Court-for-Sex-Abuse-Case-448474603.html#ixzz4uCzX3R3h

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Teen accused of bringing gun to PGCPS high school charged as an adult

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Xavier Matthews was charged with bringing a gun to school. (Courtesy of Prince George’s County Police)

A Potomac High School student charged with bringing a gun to campus is also accused of assaulting a school resource officer, according to Prince George’s County police.

Xavier Matthews, 17, of Temple Hills has been charged with assault and carrying a handgun on school property in connection with the incident that placed the Oxon Hill high school on lockdown Monday morning. Matthews is being charged as an adult, police said.

Matthews was searched and questioned after a school resource officer was alerted to a trespasser inside the school about 9:30 a.m., police said.

A teacher saw Matthews and another youth in a hallway exchanging money, according to police and school officials.

During the questioning, Matthews assaulted the officer, police said. The officer later recovered a gun from Matthews in a search, police said.

The other youth involved in the exchange was later identified as a former student. He left campus before the lockdown was lifted, police said.

Matthews is in jail on a $5,000 bond, police said.

Via Washington Post

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O’Malley administration IT agency head indicted on bribery charges

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Federal authorities indicted a former Cabinet secretary Isabel FitzGerald (seen here) in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration on bribery charges.

Federal authorities indicted a former Cabinet secretary in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration Wednesday on bribery charges involving millions of dollars’ worth of state information technology contracts.

Isabel FitzGerald, who was secretary of the Department of Information Technology in 2013 and 2014, is accused of pressuring a company, identified in the indictment only as “Company #1,” which had contracts worth almost $360 million with a state agency, to subcontract with an Indiana IT firm. The indictment says the alleged conspiracy began in 2011.

In turn, FitzGerald and a man with whom she is described in the indictment as having a “close personal relationship” are accused of taking one-third of the profits the subcontractor made in the deals.

The charges stem from an FBI investigation that court documents indicate was ongoing while O’Malley was still in office. The former governor could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

FitzGerald, 47, did not have a lawyer listed in court records and could not be reached for comment Wednesday. She is due in court Oct. 6, the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore said.

FitzGerald held several IT and senior management positions in what was then called the Department of Human Resources, joining the government after a long career at a private consulting company. FitzGerald was given the job of fixing Maryland’s Obamacare insurance exchange, which was plagued with problems when it launched in 2013.

The indictment outlines a conspiracy that allegedly centered on a relationship among FitzGerald; a Riva man named Kenneth Coffland; two executives and shareholders at the Indiana IT firm, Steven Maudlin and James Pangallo; and Company #1.

FitzGerald and the three men all face conspiracy and bribery charges. None of the men could be reached for comment and didn’t have lawyers listed in court records.

The Indiana company, The Consultants Consortium, issued a statement saying it was disappointed by the announcement of the federal charges.

“While we do not have access to all of the information gathered as part of an investigation into a former government official, we believe the two officers in question acted lawfully and ethically at all times,” the statement read.

The statement described the company as a minority-owned business that worked successfully with public and private customers across the country.

In December 2011, the alleged scheme nearly failed to get off the ground, according to court documents.

But investigators said FitzGerald, then a consultant to the state human resources secretary, intervened, drafting an email she told a department official to send to Company #1 that read in part: “To be very clear, the deal needs to go as we agreed.”

At other points, FitzGerald is accused of threatening Company #1, saying she would have its contracts canceled if it didn’t send work to Maudlin and Pangallo’s business. One of the deals FitzGerald allegedly engineered was worth almost $24 million over six years.

Investigators say FitzGerald and Coffland tried to conceal that they were benefiting from the deals by routing the money through companies they incorporated and attempting to make it look as if they were legitimately supervising workers involved in the state IT contract.

While she worked as the deputy human resources secretary in 2013, FitzGerald is also accused of directing an executive at Company #1 to rehire Coffland and place him in a $500,000-a-year position — more than double what he had earned when he worked for the company previously.

The indictment does not make any specific accusations about FitzGerald during the time she headed the Department of Information Technology.

When she took on the job of IT secretary, O’Malley praised her work at the human resources department, saying in a statement that she had improved data security and helped some of Maryland’s worst-off residents.

“With her exceptional talents, skills and experience, I am confident that the [IT] department will flourish under her leadership,” he said.

via Baltimore sun

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O’Malley Administration IT Agency Head Indicted on Bribery Charges –  When Former Governor O’Malley and his family moved out of the mansion in January, they left with most of its taxpayer-purchased furnishings — 54 items that he bought at steep discounts because every piece had been declared “junk” by his administration.
O’Malley and his wife, Baltimore District Judge Catherine Curran O’Malley, paid $9,638 for armoires, beds, chairs, desks, lamps, mirrors, ottomans, tables and other items that originally cost taxpayers $62,000, according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

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PGCPS Potomac High School Locked Down After Student Was Found With Gun

3e5c94b3-47f4-4977-9afe-ab414f9a016d-large16x9_potomachighschoolvo.01_frame_2520Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, Md., was placed on a lockdown Tuesday morning after authorities found a gun on campus. In other words, a student was found to have a gun and a former student was seen trespassing onto school grounds, police say.

Prince George’s schools spokesman John White said a teacher noticed two boys in a hallway exchanging money and thought it was unusual. She observed that one of the boys wasn’t in uniform and no longer attended the school.

The teacher alerted Potomac High’s school resource officer and administrative team, White said.

The school resource officer then found the 10th-grade student, searched him and found a handgun. The student was taken into custody.

County and state police are still looking for the former student. No shots were fired and no one was injured, said Cpl. Harry Bond, a county police spokesman.

“In the process of questioning that student, the officer found a gun on that student,” Bond said. “He was arrested and the school was placed on lockdown.”

Officers searched the school for the trespasser but he was no longer on the property, Bond said. Police said video shows the former student reported to be trespassing leaving school grounds.

They said the high school was placed on lockdown “out of abundance of caution.” The lockdown started about 9:45 a.m. and continued until after 11:30 a.m.

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) in Maryland continues to be the center for corruption and maladministration despite significant investment by the state of  in many ways.  The teacher should be commended for a Great job.

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Why the Public Should Have No Confidence in the MD Attorney Grievance Comm.

10a-VACANCY-Court-of-Appeals-MD-MF10Sometimes, ONE WORD has the ability to undermine or completely destroy confidence in all the rest of them.

The Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission. Created by the Court of Appeals in 1975, they claim on their website to be “..dedicated to protecting the public and maintaining the integrity of the legal profession.” One would think that “the public” is the most important part of any equation that involves it. But unlike other Maryland government entities, all operations and activities of the Attorney Grievance Commission and its Office of Bar Counsel appear to be fully-funded by the very attorneys they are supposed to protect the public from. Awkward triangle, to say the least.

Back to the public, who is supposed to be the most important part of the equation.

The Maryland Rules are the ONLY thing that anyone should be relying upon when dealing with the Attorney Grievance Commission or its Office of Bar Counsel. I will explain why I wrote that in a moment. Here are some of the important Rules that pertain to the early part of the complaint process:

*19-702(h) The Commission has the powers and duties to: (1) recommend to the Court of Appeals the adoption of procedural and administrative guidelines and policies consistent with these Rules.

*19-711. Bar Counsel staff is supposed to review complaints that they receive and open a file on complaints that meet their internal charging priorities. The assumption is being made that they have such priorities, since most prosecutors have them and Bar Counsel historically only pursues no more than 20% of the complaints that are made to them in most fiscal years. As an aside, The numbers clearly show that 80% of most complaints that are made to them are summarily disposed of. The Rule actually reads that the way that a file would NOT get opened is if the complaint is without merit or doesn’t allege facts that they believe demonstrate misconduct. But if a file is opened, here’s what is supposed to happen pursuant to the Rule:

“acknowledge receipt of the complaint and explain in writing to the complainant the procedures for investigating and processing the complaint.”

One would think that an entity whose purpose is to protect the public would actually let the public know about the ways in which it investigates and processes complaints. The Rule does indicate that they are supposed to tell the complainant what they are. And the other Rule indicates that the Commission had a duty to adopt guidelines and policies, which they apparently did. But what’s a guideline really?

Their 4.9 Guideline reads, “Bar Counsel shall give special attention to all cases which are not being processed with reasonable dispatch..”.

Guideline 3.23 reads, “Policy decisions..methods of processing Complaints and office procedures shall be established by the Commission and implemented by Bar Counsel and the Executive Secretary under the supervision of designated members of the Commission.”

Guideline 4.3 reads that “Bar Counsel shall prepare and maintain an up-to-date office manual, which shall contain, in addition to material selected in the discretion of Bar Counsel, all policies adopted from time to time by the Commission, all forms used by Bar Counsel… as well as specific procedures for processing complaints.”

As written in a previous blog post, the request for the disclosure of BOTH of these instances (Commission and Bar Counsel) of policies and procedures was made through the Public Information Act of the person who is the PIA designee for both the AGC and the Office of Bar Counsel. The designee, Marianne Lee, has confirmed without question that neither the AGC nor the Office of Bar Counsel have any policies or procedures articulated in 3.23 or 4.3. Repeatedly, Ms Lee suggested that the Maryland Rules be consulted for guidance.

But the Rule clearly says that they should have them. Policies pertaining to the investigating and processing of complaints, that is. And, they’re supposed to tell EVERY complainant about them.

In the most recent FY2016 annual report available on the AGC’s website (for some reason, the FY 2017 one still isn’t available) we find: “This year saw a decline in the number of complaints made to the Commission from 2147 in FY2015 to 1815 in FY2016”. (FYI, 1835 is in the chart in the report, but there “complaint” is comprised of overdraft notices, resignations, unauthorized practice of law and complaints and labeled “new cases received”). That means that some number, 1815 or maybe 1835 people, were supposed to receive acknowledgement of their complaint and the policies concerning complaints. FOUR complaints haven’t received any information about the investigation and processing of the complaints. TWO complaints haven’t received acknowledgment of their receipt, despite the fact that they were received THREE MONTHS ago with no visible action done as of yet.

There just aren’t any consistent policies or procedures for the investigation or processing of complaints.

That’s the only way that we can cut through the circular argument being made by Marianne Lee on behalf of the Attorney Grievance Commision and the Office of Bar Counsel. Her exact words, “Bar Counsel has again advised that presently there are no written policies and procedures for the processing of complaints beyond those enumerated in the Maryland Rules and the Administrative and Procedural Guidelines.” Both indicate that written policies were to be created. Acknowledged originally by the creation of the Guidelines in 2001, it therefore seems that 16 have gone by with no written policies.

Request was made for the disclosure of the “designated members of the Commission” who were supposed to see to it that policies were created and then implemented by Bar Counsel. The request was made for the disclosure of those designed members who held that role from 2012 to the present.

In her response, Ms. Lee simply printed the complete list of the Commission members and Office of Bar Counsel staff that exist as of July 31, 2017. Um, Marianne… you’re not helping!

Providing the response as she has implies one of two things. First, that there are no designated members, and that each and every person on the Commission has the responsibility equally. That would mean that each one of them is complicit in the failure to create policy and all that is supposed to flow from them. Alternatively, perhaps Ms. Lee DID provide the names within the full list but is declining to name them as requested.

Not really sure which one is worse.

It has crossed more peoples’ minds that policies, procedures and an “office manual” does actually exist, and that the AGC is purposefully defying the law (Public Information Act) by not providing them. The alternative theory is that the AGC is a rogue agency that operates as it wants to, with zero accountability to anyone. They’ve got to know that they had that coming! That’s how rogue agencies are defined.

The perspective of this blog is primarily that of a person who is currently or has previously gone through an experience or encounter with a Maryland governmental entity. In this instance, the perspective is from a member of the public that made complaints about attorneys. Most people bother to make complaints because they are upset enough to do it, and because they assume that someone with the power will do what’s necessary to afford their complaint EVERY BIT of scrutiny and care that the entity claims on its masthead to utilize. We increasingly see what has had to happen when police policing themselves regarding misconduct complaints is revealed to be ineffective. Baltimore Police forward all misconduct complaints to a Civilian Review Board now. (story HERE)

In Philadelphia, the police complaints will now be made available online as of November 2017. GREAT transparency move!

This isn’t to suggest that the Maryland AGC do what it says at almost every opportunity it will never do: bypass their many secrecy provisions. But it shouldn’t be a secret to the complainant how a government entity does the work that it claims to do on their behalf, unless they serve another master. Similarly, when it’s made to appear that largely the same number of actual complaints are made each year, with correlations made that it is proof that things are working as they should be (instead of the possibility that it’s only being made to appear that way), you begin to understand that the figures may not mean anything at all. As the Huffington Post article referenced below on police complaints suggests, it then becomes necessary to look at the complaint policy for clarification.

Unless you don’t have one, which answers nothing while simultaneously answering much.

I’m sure that I’m giving the AGC more latitude than they are giving to my complaints (which I suspect are never going to see the light of day unless I do it). In this relationship, it has become abundantly clear that I’m more into them than they are into me. Now, anyone stumbling upon this blog who was thinking about buying a ticket to the Attorney Grievance Commission-Complainant dance can just save their money, time and effort. The advertising doesn’t match the reality.

Oh, almost forgot..that ONE WORD that I mentioned at the start. The Black’s Law definition of “Guideline”: a practice that provides leeway in its interpretation.

Commission Members: Just take the guidelines down off the website if we can’t rely upon them to be accurate or binding in any material way. Just say that you do what you feel like doing (or not), and let that be the end of it. We would at least respect your honesty.

Huffington Post article mentioned herein: “Here’s what happens when you complain to cops about cops”

www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/internal-affairs-police-misconduct_us_5613ea2fe4b022a4ce5f87ce

Via Testing Maryland

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