A Maryland school board chair is facing an assault charge after allegedly shoving and threatening a fellow board member following a tense board meeting.
Segun C. Eubanks, who has led the Prince George’s County school board since 2013, is accused in the Thursday incident involving school board member Edward Burroughs III, who filed a complaint.
Burroughs said in an interview that Eubanks pinned him against a bookcase in a board room that was out of public view, wagged his finger “in and on” his face and yelled, “I will f--- you up” several times.
Eubanks declined to comment Friday, saying a reporter’s inquiry was the first he had heard of the charge — second-degree assault — or other legal action.
The alleged confrontation came after a fractious meeting at which the school board agreed to pay nearly $800,000 for a contract buyout of embattled chief executive Kevin Maxwell, who is leaving the school system after a spate of scandals during his five years at the helm.
Critics assailed the large payment. But others appeared to think their options were few. State law greatly limits the circumstances under which a superintendent may be fired, and the decision is made by the state superintendent of schools.
During the board’s public discussion Thursday night, Burroughs and board member David Murray strongly objected to the payout. Murray then called for Eubanks to join the CEO in stepping down, so the board can make “a clean transition.”
Burroughs echoed the idea.
“I do believe this deal that was negotiated was not done in the best interests of the school district,” he said. “I think we had a very weak negotiator at the table. I agree with Mr. Murray that if we’re really going to turn a leaf, I think it’s important for the board chair to step down.”
He added: “I think the leadership has enabled this bad behavior that has led us through scandal after scandal after scandal.”
Burroughs said in the interview the trouble between him and Eubanks started after the meeting ended. He said he was in a public area talking to constituents and reporters when the school board’s attorney sought him out and told him Eubanks wanted to see him. He said the attorney led him to a room where the board holds closed sessions.
There, Burroughs said, Eubanks pinned him against the bookcase and angrily challenged the call for his resignation, saying he had planned to step down but now would not. Burroughs said Eubanks also made several loud threats.
Burroughs said he asked school system police officers in the room to intervene, which they did, and Eubanks was escorted from the building, he said. He said some other school board members were there. Several other board members who were contacted for comment did not return calls.
School district spokesman John White said it is his understanding that the incident involved a heated disagreement between the two board members, not an assault.
The school system Friday evening released a statement saying the circumstances of the episode are under review.
“This incident and subsequent allegations do not represent our values and core beliefs,” the statement said. “We strive to ensure and instill civility among students, teachers, staff, and leaders.”
Burroughs and Eubanks have been at odds at times while they have served on the 14-member board.
In 2016, Burroughs and four other minority-bloc members called on Eubanks and vice chair Carolyn Boston to resign, citing failures in accountability, transparency and collaboration following the district’s loss of a multimillion-dollar federal Head Start grant.
There has not been a physical altercation between the men before, Burroughs said.
Eubanks was appointed chairman by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who persuaded state lawmakers to change the school governance structure in Prince George’s, giving him more control over district leadership.
Baker, who recently lost a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, also handpicked Maxwell, who was plagued by scandals, most recently about inflated graduation rates and large pay raises to aides.
A spokesman for Baker’s office said in a statement the county executive was aware of the alleged altercation. “He believes that, whatever happened, it is unfortunate that they did not address their disagreement in a more professional manner,” Scott Peterson said.
Burroughs said he filed a complaint after the meeting, at a time when he also applied for — and was granted — an interim restraining order against Eubanks. Online court records confirmed the assault charge against Eubanks in Prince George’s County District Court, and Burroughs provided copies showing the interim restraining order was approved by the court.
The order forbids Eubanks from threatening or committing acts that cause injury, destroy property or inflict other harm.
Burroughs has a hearing Monday and is consulting with his attorney about how to proceed, and he said the incident leaves him feeling more strongly about the need for Eubanks to resign.
“I shouldn’t have to fear being assaulted when I’m arguing points he disagrees with,” he said.