It was in the fall of 2007 that Maryland's Montgomery County passed a bill that protects citizens from discrimination in areas such as housing, employment, public accommodations, under the basis of gender identity.
The lead sponsor of the bill was Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, and prominent transgender activist Dana Beyer worked for the councilmember as her aide. When the bill was passed into law, Ruth Jacobs and others opposing it formed Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government (CRG), for which Jacobs served as president.
CRG began collecting signatures for a petition to put the law to referendum.
In the fall of 2008, Jacobs filed a complaint with the Montgomery County Ethics Commission against Beyer, claiming that Beyer had disrupted the group's efforts to collect signatures at a grocery store in February and threatened to use her power working for councilmember.
The Montgomery County Ethics Commission announced on March 8, 2011 that they have exonerated Beyer of all charges.
Jacob's complaint argued that Beyer had violated an ethics law which states: "A public employee must not intimidate, threaten, coerce or discriminate against any person for the purpose of interfering with that person’s freedom to engage in political activity."
The Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint under the following code: "[t]he rules of evidence used in judicial proceedings do not apply. The Commission may admit and give appropriate weight to evidence, including hearsay, that possesses probative value commonly accepted by reasonable and prudent persons."
While Beyer feels vindicated by the dropped charges, she says an apology from the Ethics Commission is necessary.
"I am not happy that I have not received an apology from the county or any kind of compensation from them," she said, speaking to Metro Weekly. "That's what I'm discussing now with my attorney."
Beyer could not initiate an effort to seek an apology or compensation because the Ethics Commission had not ruled on her case. With the March 8 ruling, dismissing Beyer of charges, she can start that process.
"The main problem which has not been resolved to any degree whatsoever, is that the Ethics Commission did not perform an investigation. They did not perform due diligence before they chose to charge me. And to the best of my knowledge I'm the first council staffer ever charged with an ethics violation," she said.
"I believe, and I will prove this in court if the opportunity ever rises, that this was a politically motivated attack on me because of my trans-history ... and that it was all done for the specific reason of damaging my political career and that of my boss [who] hired me.
"She was not reelected," Beyer said, adding that it has also damaged her own political career, in seeking election as a Maryland delegate.
"I know of at least one instance, I'm sure there were more, where I did not receive endorsements from various advocacy groups because of this. Having an ethics cloud hanging over me, people who were sensibly my friends, and should have given me the benefit of the doubt, but because the ethics commission has decided to charge me, felt like they couldn't do so."
[Photo: Beyer (Photo by Todd Franson.)]