Former Baltimore County Schools Leader Charged With Perjury

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Shaun Dallas Dance, a former superintendent of the Baltimore County Public Schools, is accused of making false statements on his financial disclosure forms. Credit Matt Roth for The New York Times

The former superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, the 25th largest district in the United States, was charged with four counts of perjury by the Maryland state prosecutor on Tuesday.

The state said the former superintendent, Shaun Dallas Dance, made false statements on his financial disclosure forms “to conceal the nature and extent of his outside business interests and conflicts of interest.”

Mr. Dance has been at the center of questions about the close relationships between Baltimore County school officials and education technology companies, which have been trying to win the district’s business. An article in The New York Times in November profiled the district as a case study in how tech companies court and cultivate relationships with school officials.

Mr. Dance was no longer employed by the district and already under investigation by the state when The Times article was published. His actions have been also been the focus of reporting by The Baltimore Sun.

Baltimore County’s schools had embarked on an ambitious technology makeover, committing more than $200 million to providing laptops for students and millions more on no-bid contracts for learning apps. The Times found that tech industry-funded groups or vendors paid for flights to conferences, as well as hotels and dinners, for school officials.

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Mr. Dance actively negotiated the terms of a $875,000 no-bid contract between his school district and Supes Academy, a school leadership training service, while he worked for Supes and a related company called Synesi, according to the indictment. Mr. Dance also made false statements on financial disclosure documents, the indictment said, to conceal about $90,000 in earnings from those companies.

The prosecutor also said that Mr. Dance concealed about $12,000 in payments he received through his consulting work in 2015, including $4,600 from an organization called the Education Research and Development Institute — ERDI for short — that pays superintendents to attend meetings with educational tech companies.

As part of its services, ERDI has in the past charged companies $13,000 to facilitate a meeting with five superintendents or other school leaders to discuss products, according to documents obtained by The Times. After Mr. Dance participated in confidential meetings with two of his district’s tech vendors at an ERDI conference last year, the district extended both companies’ contracts.

Other state officials around the country have begun investigating superintendents’ relationships with ERDI.

Andrew Jay Graham, a lawyer representing Mr. Dance, declined to comment on the case. Mr. Dance faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each of the four counts against him, according to the indictment.

“We are surprised and saddened to hear about the charges against former superintendent Dallas Dance,” said Verletta White, the interim superintendent in Baltimore County.

Ms. White has admitted to also receiving and failing to report consulting payments from ERDI, saying it had been a mistake. “It is important to note,” she said on Tuesday, “there are no accusations of wrongdoing by the current administration or me.”

In early January, Gov. Larry Hogan said his administration planned to introduce legislation to establish an investigator general within the state’s Department of Education to examine complaints of unethical, unprofessional or illegal conduct related to school district procurement and other matters. In doing so, Mr. Hogan specifically cited “allegations of improprieties and conflicts of interest by both the former and current Baltimore County school superintendent.”

David Sundstrom, ERDI’s president, said the company had not been contacted by the state prosecutor’s office.

“We — along with so many who work to serve students and teachers — are profoundly disheartened and disappointed if these allegations are true,” Mr. Sundstrom wrote in a statement.

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