Transgendered aide turns to law she helped pass
Beyer files complaint against council Ethics Commission
A County Councilwoman's senior policy adviser who helped draft the county's antidiscrimination law to protect transgendered people now is using the law in filing a complaint against the Montgomery County Ethics Commission.
"I helped craft the bill, and I'm the first to use it," said Dana Beyer, a transgendered woman who serves as senior aide to Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At large). "That's a delicious irony."
Beyer filed a complaint Tuesday with the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission against the county, claiming its Ethics Commission has investigated her for the past eight months because of her "gender identity."
"The Ethics Commission has made a blatant political attack on me, because I am the first openly transgender government staffer in Maryland," Beyer said. "The commission's accusations are baseless. If the Ethics Commission acted responsibly and, frankly, ethically we would not be here today."
Calls to the Ethics Commission were referred to Executive Director Barbara McNelly, who did not call back before deadline Tuesday.
The county's antidiscrimination bill was passed by the County Council and signed by County Executive Isiah Leggett in November 2007.
In January and February 2008, the group Citizens for a Responsible Government circulated a petition to put the new law to county referendum. However, on Sept. 9, 2008, the Maryland Court of Appeals blocked the referendum from the Nov. 4 ballot, supporting a challenge to the validity of the signatures and whether enough of them had been collected.
On Oct. 7, 2008, Ruth Jacobs, president of the citizens group, filed a complaint against Beyer, claiming she violated county ethics law by attempting to discourage people from gathering the signatures for the referendum.
On Jan. 23, the Ethics Commission referred the case to the Office of the County Attorney to investigate.
Beyer said her advocacy work as a private citizen in support of the antidiscrimination measure was the basis for the ethics complaint against her.
She said her work computer, telephone and desk were searched, unbeknownst to her, by an investigator for the Ethics Commission working at night when no one was there. The search was discovered in a report filed by the county attorney's office.
"The only documents that were found related to my official work on legislation as a County Council staff member," Beyer said.
Details of the Ethics Commission's investigation into her also were leaked by someone from the commission, a violation of the county's law, Beyer said. As far as she knows, the ethics investigation is ongoing, she said.
Other council staffers have worked as advocates for different causes on their own time, but Beyer believes she was singled out because she is transgendered.
"This invasion of my official records is a discriminatory and retaliatory adverse employment action based on my gender identity," Beyer said.
Trachtenberg, meanwhile, is supportive of Beyer.
"The fact that the ethics commission has allowed itself to be used for brute political purposes is simply outrageous," Trachtenberg said.
"The integrity of the legislative process has been compromised as well," she added. "The use of KGB-type tactics to undermine the function of my council office is chilling."