In November the frustrations of Maryland’s voters with their state’s failed Democrat leadership finally boiled over and provided Larry Hogan an upset victory over the Democrat’s chosen candidate Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. It would be easy to dismiss this victory as the revenge of Maryland’s far rural parts if places like Howard County, a bedroom community of both Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD, hadn’t also elected new Republican leadership. It’s obvious this election had deeper meaning: voters clearly repudiated the Democrats and their cronies’ failed leadership and commitment to business as usual.
Yet, some in Maryland think they can continue down the same path despite a clear message from voters. To watch this hubris and tone deafness in action, one only needs to look at the Howard County Education Association—the union representing Howard County’s teachers. Last summer I introduced readers to the self-dealing head of the union, Paul Lemle, as the union stood in the way of pay raises for its members. With the recent news that Lemle was found to have violated the school’s ethics policies, it is time to revisit the union’s business as usual.
If you remember, Lemle, after securing a $30,000 raise for himself the previous year, tried to claim that the raises being offered teachers by the Democratic County Executive and the School Board were not raises because they were based on a cost of living allowance of three percent--- never mind the additional step pay increases received by a majority of teachers. After threatening a job action and encouraging teachers to scare students by telling them teachers would not be able to write college recommendation letters, the union retreated, declared victory and accepted the deal.
For its next effort the Howard County Education Association Spent valuable resources trying to elect a slate of candidates to the School Board. The purpose of this effort was obvious: the union hoped to find a more compliant audience for next year’s negotiations. Fortunately Lemle and the union misread the electorate and all of its candidates, with the exception those already holding Board seats were swept aside. Not many people can say they are 0-2 on similar major decisions within such a short timeframe, but for Lemle and HCEA the record only gets worse.
A motion filed last week by Paul Lemle in Howard County Circuit Court offers supporting documents that provide the reader a glimpse into a union chief who seeks to use extraordinary means to achieve his objectives. According to the motion, Lemle is seeking to prevent the Board of Education from reporting that he was found to have violated the school system’s ethics policy. Lemle wants to keep the ethics finding secret because he fears it will hurt his re-election as union chief. I can only surmise, based on his filing that Lemle feels that teachers in Howard County don’t deserve the chance to educate themselves about his failings. Readers interested in the substance of the ethics report can get a copy at the Howard County District Court, but what I find more interesting are the allegations Lemle and the union make against his potential challenger.
According to Lemle’s filing, Jody Zepp, a Howard County teacher who recently was named the 2015 Maryland Teacher of the Year is planning to run against him. Lemle accuses Zepp of running as a pawn of the School Board and asks the court to squash the ethics report against him. What’s more there are indications that the union changed its internal rules to hamper Zepp’s run even further. I suppose any teacher’s union head with a record like Lemle’s should feel threatened by the Teacher of the Year.
It is always delicious to see a union that tries so hard to use elections to their benefit go to extremes to deny fair and open internal elections. These mental and legal gymnastics are not limited to the Howard County Education Association. We see unions repeatedly reject secret ballots as a way to intimidate workers; we see them cry interference when they lose a fair vote; and, they repeatedly inflate the numbers of workers to try and certify unions. They just never learn.
The Howard County Education is not the most egregious example of a failed teacher’s union; it’s just another example of one conducting business as usual. And that is the greater pity.