Updated at 8:21 p.m. 10-22-19
CUMBERLAND — The Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday voted to remove Wayne Foote from the Allegany County Public Schools Board of Education.
Prior to the vote, the state board heard arguments from attorneys in the case.
After an investigation, the state board in February charged Foote with misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.
A two-day public hearing on the case was held in Cumberland in July.
In September, Administrative Law Judge Michael Wallace issued a proposed decision that Foote should be removed from the school board.
Foote’s attorney, Thomas Lynch, on Tuesday said Allegany County voters elected Foote to the local school board and the state board should have conducted itself in a “hands-off” fashion.
“This body should never have involved itself,” he said of the state board. “You were the protagonist.”
Lynch said a February 2019 MSDE regulation stipulates that the local school board, through its attorney, at Foote’s hearing in July should have presented the case to remove him.
“The local board was not present. The local board’s counsel was not present,” Lynch said. “Legally, this proceeding was inappropriate.”
Rather than remove Foote, the state should “be a healer” and turn the situation into a positive process.
“Our client needs some sensitivity training,” Lynch said. “You could bring in facilitators like retired judges to encourage the improved communication among the new board members and in addition with the new superintendent.”
The removal of Foote “would be maybe ineffectual in the long term because Wayne could simply run for reelection,” Lynch said.
Karen Anderson-Scott, assistant attorney general, said Lynch should have raised his concern that the legal process in Foote’s case was flawed prior to Tuesday’s board meeting.
“(Lynch) did not make this argument at the time of the hearing,” she said.
She also said several exhibits submitted at Foote’s hearing over the summer supported the charges against him.
“Some of them were videotaped evidence showing Mr. Foote’s acts of misconduct,” she said.
“There was probable cause,” Anderson-Scott said. “The allegations were factually and legally sufficient for the board to issue the charges.”
Additionally, no evidence was presented at Foote’s hearing that showed sensitivity training would be beneficial, she said.
“We ask that the board uphold the (proposed) decision of ALJ Wallace,” Anderson-Scott said.
The state board just before it adjourned Tuesday's meeting announced that it had voted in executive session to remove Foote from the local school board.
The Cumberland Times-News asked ACPS board members Robert Farrell - president, David Bohn - vice president, Tammy Fraley and Deb Frank for comments shortly after the state board announced its vote. As of Tuesday evening, only Frank responded.
"Our focus now will be on securing an appointee who can help us move this Board in a positive direction for the sake of our school system. Unfortunately, our work in the past ten months has been stifled," she said via email. "It is my hope that the appointee will be one with strong leadership skills, sound knowledge of education policy, and a vision of opportunities for education in Allegany County."
Under Maryland law, the governor "shall appoint a new member to fill any vacancy of an elected member’s position on the board for the remainder of that term and until a successor is elected and qualifies."
CTN reached out to the governor's office Tuesday evening and asked for details including when that could happen. So far, there's been no response.
Foote now has the right to a de novo review of the removal by the Circuit Court for Allegany County. CTN emailed Foote's attorneys and asked whether he plans to exercise that right. So far, there's been no response.
Check back at times-news.com for updates.