Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dana Beyer Cleared of Ethics Charges

In February, 2008, the Citizens for Responsible Government were trying to get people to sign petitions for a referendum to repeal a gender identity nondiscrimination law that had just been enacted in Montgomery County, Maryland. Standing in public places throughout the county, they told unwary citizens that the new law would allow male pedophiles and sexual predators to go into ladies' showers and restrooms legally and molest their wives and daughters. People who heard this were of course shocked, and many of them signed the petitions, though the law had nothing to do with that but merely involved the addition of the term "gender identity" to the usual list of religion, national origin, etc. that was already part of the existing nondiscrimination law.

As you can read from the record of this blog HERE, members of our group and several others traveled around the county, visiting sites where petition signatures were being gathered. We would talk with those who were considering signing the petitions, explaining what it was about and hoping they would decide not to sign. We talked with those who were gathering the signatures, who often did not understand what the real issue was. And when we thought they were standing on land where they might not have given permission,we talked to property owners and store managers, explaining what was happening, and encouraging them to ask the people to leave. It was rewarding work.

Dana Beyer was an assistant to County Council memeber Duchy Trachtenberg at the time. Dana is a transgender woman who has run for office several times, a retired physician and high-profile member of the county's progressive community. She was not part of the group that traveled around the county, but did make an appearance at the Arliss Road Giant store in Takoma Park at the time we went there. Several surly men were haunting the front walkway of the store gathering signatures, and several of us talked with passersby. Dana and I went inside the store and talked with the Giant manager, who decided not to throw the CRG representatives off the property. At some point the police came and kept the two groups separated.

Later, some members of the CRG filed a complaint with the county, stating that Dana Beyer had threatened them, acting as an official of the county. There was a countersuit, hearings, additional complaints.

Now, three years after the event, we have a judgment.

Here is the Montgomery County Ethics Commission's description of the complaint against Dana Beyer.
The Complaint alleged that Dr. Beyer and other Bill proponents interfered with MCRG’s signature-gathering activities at various Giant Food stores by, among other things, yelling and screaming at MCRG volunteers and potential petition signers that they were “bigots;” that by signing the petition they were “for discrimination;” and that the names of those who signed the petition would be “all over the internet.” In one particular incident, at the Arliss/Piney Branch Giant on February 17, 2008, Dr. Beyer allegedly told the Giant manager that she worked for Councilmember Trachtenberg and that the manager would “have problems with the County Council” if he allowed MCRG to stay and gather signatures. The Complaint also alleged that Dr. Beyer intimidated signature gatherers and/or MCRG volunteers by purposefully bumping into them and physically getting between MCRG volunteers and potential petition signers.

The Complaint alleged further that Dr. Beyer used the prestige of her office for personal gain in violation of § 19A-14(a) because, as a transgendered woman, she stood to personally gain from Bill 23-10. MCRG maintained that Dr. Beyer also violated § 19A-14(c) when she used her County position and facilities (e.g., her office computer) in her campaign to thwart MCRG’s petition drive and uphold Bill 23-10. Finally, the Complaint alleged that Dr. Beyer’s conduct at the Giant Food stores violated § 19A-14(e)’s proscription against intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any person for the purpose of interfering with that person’s freedom to engage in political activity

The Commission investigated the charges and threw out all of them but one. They did decide to hold a hearing into the events that had happened at the Arliss Giant.

There were depositions and testimony. I testified, as did most of the people from our group who had been there. The CRG submitted a written affidavit and a recorded interview by Verlon Mason, a Giant assistant manager who had been there and who referred to Beyer using the derogatory term "shim," and a written statement by CRG signature gatherer Craig Koch. At a hearing the Commission heard testimony from CRG president Ruth Jacobs, who had not been present at the scene. One of the signature gatherers, Steven Schall, testified, refering to Dana Beyer repeatedly as "he" and "him." He said that Beyer had bumped into him and yelled at him.

Montgomery County Police Sergeant Douglas Cobb testified that he'd been there and hadn't seen anything, and Giant assistant manager Aaron Williams said he had seen some loud talking back and forth but no physical contact. He did not recall Dr. Beyer identifying herself as a County employee or saying that she worked for a Councilmember. There was also testimony from a CRG member who had not been at the scene, Alberta Bertuzzi, who had recorded Verlon Mason's testimony and then lost the tape and then found it again.

Testimony was also taken from Dana Beyer, TTF member Andrea Kline, TTF president Christine Grewell, and me.

Here are the conclusions of the Commission:
The ethics law is not an unbounded general code of civil conduct for county employees. Rather, the ethics law is concerned with the way employees conduct County business; the law addresses employees’ private conduct only where the conduct intersects with their public employment. Accordingly, inherent in § 19A-14(e)’s proscription against a public employee’s intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any person for the purpose of interfering with that person’s freedom to engage in political activity is a nexus with County employment. In order for § 19A-14(e) to be violated, the employee’s conduct must be on the job, include self-identification as a public employee, or otherwise entail the prestige of office.

Assuming that Dr. Beyer did confront MCRG volunteers, Giant Food managers, and patrons, there is no credible evidence that she invoked her County position while doing so. The Commission found Mr. Schall’s testimony, as well as Verlon Mason’s audiotape and affidavit, unpersuasive. Mr. Mason’s use of the derogatory term “shim” when referring to Dr. Beyer, evidences a bias against transgendered individuals. Similarly, Mr. Schall displayed a palpable and unapologetic disdain for transgendered individuals which, in the Commission’s judgment, makes his testimony not credible.

On the other hand, the disinterested witnesses do not support the charge. Montgomery County Police Sergeant Douglas Cobb did not testify to any confrontation, let alone conduct that might violate § 19A-14(e). And while Giant manager Aaron Williams testified that there was a “confrontation,” “shouting,” and “loud talking back and forth,” he would not identify what, if any, role Dr. Beyer played in this confrontation.

It is apparent to the Commission that MCRG and Teach the Facts have very political agendas and this is reflected in their support or opposition to the Bill. There may, in fact, have been harsh words exchanged at the Arliss/Piney Branch on the day in question. But it was not proved that Dr.Beyer violated § 19A-14(e) by intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any person’s freedom to engage in political activity as a function of being on the job, self-identifying as a public employee, or entailing the prestige of office.

The complaint is dismissed.

This is not the end of the story. Three years of investigation has cleared Dana Beyer's name and now she can have her day in court.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dana Beyer was an assistant to County Council memeber Duchy Trachtenberg"


whether technically proven to be guilty or not, the actions were dubious

to have the author of a law out, in person, trying to dissuade petitioners, at the site of the collection of signatures, is confrontational and ridiculous and unheard of

March 10, 2011 1:58 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Personally attacking Dr. Dana Beyer's good name because of a "palpable and unapologetic disdain for transgendered individuals" is wrong. The MC Ethics Commission was right to find the testimony of CRG member Schall and Giant Asst. Mgr. Mason, which contradicted the testimony of the other Giant Asst. Mgr. Williams, MC Police Officer Cobb, and every other witness who was there except the one who told Andrea her mother should have aborted her, "unpersuasive" and "not credible."

The MCRG should have to pay Dr. Beyer's legal bills to defend herself from their now dismissed complaint.

March 10, 2011 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

disdain is a subjective assessment and not a criminal act or a civil violation anyway

making false statements to investigators would be but since CRG does have its witnesses, it's hard to see Dana prevailing in any counter suit, especially with the high bar created by cases like Sullivan v NY

the kind of involvement Dana had, even the kind she is conceding, should not really be engaged in by someone in the position she had, whether technically unethical or not

the appearance is too easy to misinterpret, she should have let the advocacy groups do it, or better yet, engage in public debate during the referendum campaign

March 10, 2011 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The CRG lost another court case, this time their personal vendetta against the glorious, victorious Dr. Dana Beyer!


Is anyone surprised?

Other than their infamous drive-by 10 day temporary restraining order in 2005, CRW has batted a big fat ZERO in every legal battled they tried.

March 10, 2011 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is anyone surprised?"

that the gay agenda takes Maryland for a sucker

I'm not surprised myself

MCPS did lose the curriculum case though

the valueless curriculum has had a broad effect that is causing the general decline of academics

compare how MCPS ranked nationally before the curriculum and after

if that's not a loss, what would be?

March 10, 2011 8:04 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

Anon writes: "MCPS did lose the curriculum case though"

Selective memory. After the 2005 legal ambush, MCPS regrouped and developed a curriculum which, in most ways, went into much greater depth than the 2004-05 proposed curriculum. CRC and PFOX (and this time the Family Leader Network) sued again -- and lost, culminating in the Montgomery County Circuit Court decision in early 2008.

March 11, 2011 5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if the school system was forced to change the curriculum because of the court case, then it sounds to me like CRG won the case.

March 11, 2011 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Refresher course for Anon -- emphasis added.

Sex-Ed Curriculum's Opponents Won't Appeal
By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 7, 2008

"Opponents of new sex education lessons for Montgomery County middle and high school students have decided not to appeal a court ruling in favor of the school system, ending a lengthy legal battle over what teachers may tell students about sexual orientation.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, the group leading the opposition to the revised curriculum, concluded that it did not have a strong chance of having last month's circuit court decision overturned on appeal. Instead, it will seek other ways to change the lessons, spokeswoman Michelle Turner said.

"We think there are other avenues that would be more timely and have a greater impact," Turner said. "We realize that we're not going to get the outcome we're looking for in a Montgomery County court, but we're far from done."

The school system adopted a new sex education curriculum last summer after a six-year debate over how best to update lesson plans a citizens advisory group concluded were outdated. Some lessons now include discussions on homosexuality and the proper use of a condom.

CRC objected to lessons that categorize homosexuality as innate, saying they violate a state law that says teachings must be factual. They also opposed a mention of anal intercourse, saying it violates a law against teaching "erotic techniques."

Circuit Court Judge William Rowan III found in favor of the school system, echoing a Maryland State Board of Education decision last year that determined the group had no right to "second-guess the appropriateness" of the curriculum adopted by the Montgomery community.

Turner said the group will push for the state legislature or State Board of Education to define what constitutes an erotic technique, a decision now left to local school boards. CRC will also continue working with other groups to distribute information challenging the assertion that homosexuality is innate.

Brian Edwards, chief of staff for Montgomery Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, said administrators are pleased by CRC's decision not to continue the legal challenge.

"Unfortunately, a small group of opponents have cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend this, so obviously we're very pleased that it's over," Edwards said. "We are going to focus on instruction. We are not going to focus on actions they may or may not take in other venues.""

Now they can add their personal attack on Dr. Beyer to their pile of losses.

March 11, 2011 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

if the school system was forced to change the curriculum because of the court case, then it sounds to me like CRG won the case

It didn't sound like that to the suers in 2006.

"Press Release - November 6, 2006
Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum


Michelle Turner


MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD -- Montgomery County’s reworked sex ed curriculum still contains sexual material that many of the county’s parents could find objectionable, according to Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), a grassroots organization monitoring development of the new curriculum.

The CRC was able to obtain a copy of the proposed tenth grade sex education curriculum via their membership position on the citizens advisory committee. Excerpts from the new 10th grade draft curriculum is available for review at; the group’s web site.

“In many ways this curriculum is worse than the one that was scrapped last year,” according to Turner, including a new focus on the concept of transgender and sex change operations...."

March 11, 2011 7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the school board was forced to rewrite the curriculum, then it sounds to me like CRC won. Maybe CRC didn't like the revised curriculum, but that's a different matter.

March 11, 2011 8:13 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

CRC sued to stop the MCPS sex education curriculum from being updated. They wanted to keep the more than a decade old curriculum in place.

A 2005 CRC press release said:

"...Earlier this month the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) President, Michelle Turner, delivered to the Board of Education 250 pages of signed petitions gathered from all over the county by CRC members with over 3,500 parents, taxpayers and citizens signed up to oppose the Board of Education’s decision to replace the current sex curriculum with a more progressive and pro-homosexual program..."

The CRC failed to keep the original curriculum from being replaced, but they did stop the first revision from replacing it. Instead, they got a second new curriculum revision they felt was "In many ways...worse than the one that was scrapped last year" rather than one that reflected their narrow views about human sexuality.

You say "it sounds to me like CRC won."

Enjoy the sounds, but IMHO nobody else hears it that way.

March 11, 2011 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What on earth are you talking about? "the valueless curriculum has had a broad effect that is causing the general decline of how MCPS ranked nationally before the curriculum and after"

What is your proof of a decline of academics as related to the "valueless" curriculum? Please cite credible studies to support this stupid allegation.

MCPS's national ranking (based on whose requirements, standards, measures of evalutation? PFOX?)has NOT suffered because of a change it has made in its Family Life curriculum. If anything, MCPS has enhanced its reputation by incorporating positive values showing respect for differences and has been a leader in progressive thinking for several decades now.

Your fantasies are indicative of an individual who lives in a dream world and is more appropriate to a character from "Alice in Wonderland".

Uganda would be a heavenly place in which you could plant your roots and reside. Perhaps we could have a yard sale so as to contribute to your plane fare to that "right-thinking" country?

March 11, 2011 9:51 AM  

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