State investigation says Prince George's Co. Schools Ethics Panel, board chair violated policy
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - The ethics panel for Prince George’s County Public Schools issued flawed and inaccurate findings that called for the removal of six elected school board members, according to a newly released investigation by the Maryland Office of the Inspector General for Education (OIGE).
The OIGE investigative report, first reported by FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts, says both the school board chair and the ethics panel violated school board policy.
One year ago, the ethics panel recommended the resignation or removal of Edward Burroughs, David Murray, Raaheela Ahmed, Joshua Thomas, Kenneth Harris, and Shayla Adams-Stafford. The panel recommended sanctions for Belinda Queen.
Those board members were part of a progressive block of the board that often voted together and at times clashed with the school board chair and other members appointed by the Prince George’s County Executive.
Board Chair Dr. Juanita Miller was among those who called for the ethics panel to investigate the elected board members.
The board members have maintained that the ethics panel findings were false and part of an effort to remove them from office and subvert the will of voters who elected them.
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Initially, the ethics panel findings were not made public, but anonymously mailed to elected leaders in the county. This past June the board voted to accept the findings which made them public.
The OIGE found that board Chair Dr. Juanita Miller violated board policy when she voted to accept the findings, saying she should have recused herself since she called for the investigation.
"The actions taken by the Chairperson would have precluded her from rendering a fair and impartial vote and subsequent enforcement action," the OIGE report reads.
Miller did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
After a separate investigation, the Maryland State Board of Education has taken steps to remove Miller from office. She said she is still in the process of appealing.
In April, the ethics panel, which is appointed by school board leadership, resigned en masse, citing the state investigation as one of the reasons.
Prince George's Co. Schools Ethics Panel resigns amid investigation
The entire ethics panel for Prince George’s County Public Schools has resigned effective Friday.
The chair of the ethics panel, Gregory Morten, did not respond to FOX 5’s request for comment in April.
In the original findings against the elected school board members, the ethics panel stated they violated policy when they hired a board lobbyist and when they decided to reorganize the board office, making staffing changes and prompting a "federal discrimination lawsuit." Some board members were also accused of a pay-to-play scheme involving a labor union they received campaign contributions from.
The OIGE report takes on each accusation and addresses the inaccuracies. It says the ethics panel used "opinion based conclusions" that were inconsistent with factual findings and calls the overall investigation by the ethics panel unreliable.
It also says the ethics panel report cost over $100,000.
OIGE made several recommendations to prevent future policy violations and found no criminal violations occurred.
A PGCPS spokesperson tells FOX 5: "Our general counsel will review the report and all findings and recommendations and will consult with the administration."