Two Montgomery County school board members charged yesterday that a private dinner held earlier this week by a powerful teachers' union was a "political pay-off" for four newly elected members and the board president.
Board members Marian Greenblatt and Suzanne Peyser, the two not invited to a Wednesday night "holiday" dinner given by the Montgomery County Education Association, said it was "unprecedented" for a majority of the seven-member board to meet with union leaders under any circumstances without the superintendent or his representative present.
Several of the board members who attended the dinner at The Bamboo and Pine Restaurant on Rockville Pike said they were unaware that the entire board had not been invited to the dinner, which was billed as a Christmas party that involved no discussion of business. They said they received formal invitations in the mail and assumed all seven members were invited.
MCEA president J. David Eberly said the dinner was a celebration of the new members' electoral victory and that the board president, Blair Ewing, was invited because "he's a friend."
Greenblatt and Peyser said they believed there was a correlation between the dinner and a vote by the board on Tuesday which changed a previous policy. The five-member majority voted not to take a position on state legislation that would allow the teachers' union to collect $250 in dues from nonunion employes. The old board opposed similar measures.
"It's outrageous," said Greenblatt. "It's so blatant. It's a political payoff."
Ewing said it was "flatly untrue" that the dinner was a political payoff. He said his invitation came long before the board vote and that he was not contacted by MCEA about the agency-shop issue prior to voting.