What in the world are you talking about, Councilman Jones?

The Baltimore Sun approached various people for their comments on the last-minute guilty plea by former Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance. Dance pleaded guilty today to four counts of perjury, admitting that he lied about outside income on financial disclosure forms that he signed under oath, and that he steered no-bid technology contracts to a company he worked for on the side.

Nothing inane or offensive that comes out of the mouth of a Baltimore County official should surprise me anymore, but I was dumbfounded by the statement by County Council President Julian Jones. Mr. Jones reportedly told the Sun:

“I was shocked and disappointed. I don’t like what happened. I don’t condone it, but … he’s owning up to what he did.”

“Owning up to what he did”? What in the world are you talking about, Councilman Jones? Dance pleaded guilty on the day that trial was scheduled to begin and did so only because the state’s case against him was not only strong, it was devastating.

Dance had many chances to “own up” to his misdeeds over the five years that he pulled the wool over the eyes of the Board of Education and the citizens of the county, and never did so.  That’s five years during which he could have come clean, but didn’t.  He didn’t “own up” to anything, Councilman.  He got caught.

Here’s an example of what Dance was up against if the case went to trial: It appears from the statement of facts read by State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt that Davitt had evidence showing that Dance told Gary Solomon, one of the owners of SUPES Academy, that he (Dance) was going to fire Anissa Brown-Dennis, who at the time was Director of Leadership Development for the Baltimore County Public Schools. Brown-Dennis apparently had become a fly in the ointment in the relationship between Dance and SUPES, from whom Dance was receiving income that he had not disclosed to the Board of Education.

Brown-Dennis informed a sales representative for SUPES that she was not interested in pursuing a contract with SUPES for leadership development services. Dance wrote to the sales representative telling him that he would reach out to Anissa Brown-Dennis about the status of the contract. Thereafter, Dance allegedly told Solomon that he would fire her, presumably to remove her as an obstacle. The no-bid contract eventually was approved, after being sent directly to Dance.

A threat to fire an employee to grease the skids for a sleazy deal is ugly stuff, and won’t be forgotten when it comes time for the judge to sentence Dance.  Dance pleaded guilty because he couldn’t afford to pass up a plea bargain in which the State Prosecutor recommended that Dance spend only 18 months in jail.

Given what I read in the statement of facts, and given Dance’s history of ethical lapses, I think that even with that recommendation there is a chance that Dance will spend more than 18 months in jail. Without it, my guess is that Dance was facing twice that much time in jail.

I would not have paid any attention to the comment by Councilman Jones if I thought it was just an isolated, improvident remark. The problem is that I believe that it reflects a certain mind-set. In my opinion, this isn’t the first thing that Councilman Jones hasn’t taken seriously enough or has been too willing to overlook during his time on the Council.

Councilman Jones, there is nothing redeeming about what Dance has done, at least not yet. Be willing to call things for what they are and worry less about whom you are pleasing or offending.

March 8, 2018

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