Will chair of Prince George’s School Board still be chair when her case goes to trial?

Roughly six months after the Maryland State Board of Education issued charges against Prince George’s County School Board Chair Juanita Miller aimed at removing her from office, she’ll get her chance to answer the allegations.

The state board in May issued charges of misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty and incompetence against Miller, stemming from complaints issued by six current and former school board members.

After a hearing Tuesday before the administrative law judge hearing the case, the trial is set to begin Nov. 28. While it’s expected to run six or seven days, because of other obligations, the case is scheduled to take a break after that week and not conclude until days before Christmas.

By then, Miller might not even be the chair of the county’s school board anymore. In December, the board that takes office after November’s election will be allowed to appoint its own chair.

The petitioners in the case are former board members Ed Burroughs and Raaheela Ahmed, and current members Joshua Thomas, Shayla Adams-Stafford, Kenneth Harris and David Murray. They’re acting as individuals and not as the school board.

The case also may not make it to the November trial. The six petitioners have asked the judge for a summary decision ahead of the hearing, which would allow the judge to weigh the evidence presented so far and make a decision by late October.

Any ruling against Miller, whenever it happens, would be subject to appeal. A ruling in her favor could also be essentially ignored by the state school board, which could still take action to remove her from office.

“This is an important case,” said Judge Richard O’Connor, an administrative law judge. “The file in this case is pretty thick. It contains a number of prior complaints by the petitioners to the state board as well as Dr. Miller’s reply to certain complaints.”

The complaint alleges that Miller failed to sign a contract with a law firm she was required to sign after it was approved by the full school board, and then hiring other lawyers for the school board without the board’s approval.

Miller is also accused of letting lawyers into a confidential executive board session on two occasions when they weren’t permitted to attend those meetings, as well as withholding ethics complaints from the local board, and then failing to turn over findings and recommendations from an ethics panel on the complaints so the board could make a final decision.

“The issues have been pretty well framed by the state board and by the parties in their prehearing statements,” said O’Connor. “Basically, they are whether Dr. Miller committed misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty, or incompetence. And if so, whether any of those items are sufficient grounds for her removal from the board.”

It’s still not clear where any hearing would be held. Typically, they’re handled at the Maryland Offices of Administrative Hearings, in Hunt Valley in Baltimore County. Both sides seemed wary of making the daily trip there for the trial though. A county facility in Landover is also under discussion; it could also end up being conducted virtually — though that’s not the preference of most involved.

Shortly after the state board issued the charges against Miller, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who appointed Miller to lead the board, asked for Miller’s resignation. But Miller has refused to step down, and under the law Alsobrooks can’t force her out.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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