Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Big Dance

Savvy HoCo residents have been following the case of a former school Superintendent in Baltimore County. Dallas Dance, who recently entered a guilty plea to perjury charges, came perilously close to being the Superintendent of our school system. In what might be the weirdest and most incestuous search process ever, HoCo and BaltCo used the same search company and came down to the same two top candidates: Dallas Dance and Renee Foose.

Some day there may be a made-for-tv movie about this, folks. It’s that weird.

Lauded columnist Dan Rodricks has written a piece about Dance. It’s good copy but it completely misses the point. In “Dallas Dance and the failure to learn” Rodricks is left scratching his head at the “smart guys in fine suits” make stupid (criminal) mistakes when there are so many famous examples that might warn them that it is sure to end badly.

First of all, why use the term “smart guys in fine suits” when you’re going to launch into the malfeasance of former Mayor of Baltimore Sheila Dixon? Surely there’s a non-gendered way to say it?

There’s nothing puzzling about the kind of powerful people who make selfish and criminal choices on the job. It’s quite simple. The kind of person who does this doesn’t think the rules apply to them. They believe they are “special”, “different”. They recognize no connection between themselves and these other examples Mr. Rodricks has documented in his article. Perhaps this sort of person could be described as a certain psychological type. I’m not qualified to say.

I do know that this behavior is often the same behavior seen in abusers. They believe they know everything. They encourage a cult of personality. They groom potential followers. They feel no connection to the concept that their actions will have consequences. They may call out others for bad behavior but anything they do is justified. They are special. They have reasons.

Perhaps what is more puzzling is that we haven’t gotten better as a society at recognizing people like this before they are hired, before they are elected to office. Maybe not, though. Someone who operates like this can be deceptively reasonable early on. They have the intelligence to do and say the right things to “make the sale” when they are selling themselves.

As we in Howard County look at the demise of Dallas Dance and learn more about undeclared payments and unethical contracts, I wonder if this story might unravel further. Could Howard County fall victim to the same kind of fancy-dressed grifter that worked his way into the Baltimore County School System?

Somehow I think that there’s more to this story, and that the rest of it will play out far closer to home.

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