A former superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, the 25th-largest district in the United States, pleaded guilty on Thursday to four counts of perjury related to payments totaling about $147,000 that he received for consulting and speaking engagements.
The state said the former superintendent, Shaun Dallas Dance, had made false statements on his financial disclosure forms “to conceal the nature and extent of his outside business interests and conflicts of interest.” Among other sources of income, the state said, Mr. Dance received payments from a school leadership training company that he had helped win an $875,000 no-bid contract from his school district.
After his financial relationship with that school vendor became known, the state said, Mr. Dance falsely told a Baltimore County Public Schools ethics panel that he had not been paid by the company while it was doing business with the district. He also provided the ethics panel with what the state described as a “sham” service agreement with the company supporting his false claims.
Prosecutors have asked for a five-year sentence and said they wanted Mr. Dance to serve 18 months of it. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 20.
Andrew Jay Graham, a lawyer representing Mr. Dance, declined to comment on the case.
Verletta White, the interim superintendent of Baltimore County schools, said in a statement, “We are saddened by the news but trust the judicial process.”
Mr. Dance has been at the center of questions about close relationships between Baltimore County school officials and education technology companies seeking 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, who became superintendent in 2012 and announced his resignation 11 months ago without citing a reason, was no longer employed by the district and was already under investigation by the state when The Times’s 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.
In court documents, the state said Mr. Dance had concealed about $12,000 in payments he received through his consulting work in 2015, including $4,600 from the Education Research and Development Institute — ERDI for short — an organization that pays superintendents to attend meetings with educational tech companies.
ERDI has charged companies $13,000 to organize 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.
A state senator and county representatives have asked the state to audit certain Baltimore County Public Schools tech contracts.
The district continues to pursue large technology deals — with a $140 million contract for student and staff laptops awaiting a vote from the school board.