Baltimore County Schools Chief Auditor Andrea Barr gets to keep her job as the rest of her lawsuit continues.
Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Sherrie R. Bailey granted Barr a preliminary injunction following Wednesday’s hearing and Thursday’s closing arguments. The preliminary injunction allows Barr to continue working. She had remained employed before due to a temporary restraining order, which was set to end Thursday.
Barr is suing Baltimore County Schools and its school board, alleging her 36-year career was terminated unlawfully at a May 17 board meeting. The board voted 6-0 in favor of renewing her contract but said the motion could not pass because seven votes were required. Five board members chose not to vote, either abstaining or recusing themselves. Subsequently, Barr was told by the board her last day would be June 30.
“There’s some concerning information that’s been presented to this court,” Bailey said.
Bailey added that there is no harm to the school board with the continuation of Barr’s employment. Conversely, there would be irreparable harm to Barr should she be terminated.
She said Barr would also face difficulty finding employment given the current state of the world. During the hearing, Barr said she never searched for other jobs, despite troubles at work, citing her inability to find a comparable position at her age in this market. Barr’s lawyer said in court she is close to turning 65, which would earn her a greater pension.
The preliminary injunction lasts until the lawsuit is resolved.
“Whether Ms. Barr prevails remains to be seen,” Bailey said.
Barr’s lawyer, Kathleen Cahill, argued the board orchestrated an “illegal scheme” to terminate Barr’s employment and has been hostile toward Barr since 2019 despite her exceptional performance.
Starting that year, Barr claimed her work environment soured as board members attempted to influence her work by having her “bend to their personal agendas.” This led to a “campaign of pressure and threats” from board members Kathleen Causey and Russell Kuehn.
Barr’s contract renewal was put up for its first vote the following year. The second time the board voted on her contract renewal was in May. In both cases, several board members chose not to vote. The only reason the 2022 vote did not pass, Cahill said, is because there was a vacancy on the board at the time of the vote. In February, board member Cheryl Pasteur left the board to run for office.
Cahill said Barr could only be terminated for cause or with a 90-day notice under the contract renewal language, neither of which was done. She also said there is no board policy for contract renewals, but it has been customary for the superintendent and board chair to sign off on renewals without conducting a board vote.
At Wednesday’s preliminary injunction hearing, board member Moalie Jose testified she was concerned about retaliation.
Jose said that Causey sent someone to her house last year to deliver a threatening letter after Jose spoke out against racism at a board meeting. Jose said she also was reported for an ethics complaint.
The Evening Sun
“I’m just concerned for my health and safety,” Jose said.
The Baltimore County school board’s lawyers did not bring in any witnesses or offer evidence besides one report, which is unusual.
Cahill asked why board chair Julie Henn did not testify.
One defense lawyer Craig Meuser said the burden of proof was on the plaintiffs to bring in witnesses. He also questioned why Cahill did not subpoena other school board members, especially those who chose not to vote, if she wanted them to talk.
“We knew we had the evidence we needed,” Cahill said.
Barr will continue to argue her case in the circuit court, and she awaits further information on the appeal she sent to the Maryland Board of Education.
“Ms. Barr is very relieved and thrilled to have been provided the right to continue her exceptional career, to work hard for what is right and without threat or unlawful retaliation,” Cahill said.