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Education

Baltimore County School Board attempts to keep chief auditor’s termination permanent following lawsuit

Baltimore County School Board is fighting to ensure that Chief Auditor Andrea Barr’s last day remains June 30.

The school board filed a motion for dissolution of the temporary restraining order that currently requires the board to renew Barr’s contract. Barr originally filed a lawsuit claiming her contract was terminated unlawfully by the school board, which voted 6-0 to renew her contract on May 17. The board said it requires seven votes for a motion to pass and that Barr’s contract would end on the last day of June. The five other board members present for the vote either abstained or recused themselves from voting. The last school board seat was vacant at the time of the vote but has since been filled by appointee Felicia Stolusky.

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The restraining order, approved by Judge Nancy Purpura, is set to last ten days unless otherwise extended, and a preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for July 6.

According to the motion for dissolution filing, the board claimed all votes require a majority of votes in comparison to total number of board member seats to pass, as confirmed by a State Board of Education opinion from 2020. They said that a vacant seat is irrelevant to the process. Barr’s lawyer, Kathleen Cahill, responded in a filing saying that an advisory opinion does not function as a legal precedent and Barr’s claims still stand. The board submitted a response noting that “the State Board of Education’s statutory authority is so comprehensive that it is invested...with the last word on any matter concerning educational policy or the administration of the system of public education.

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The board also alleges it is Barr’s employer and that she reports to the board, not Baltimore County Public Schools, as stated in the lawsuit. Barr wrote that in the past, her contract has been renewed with just approval from the superintendent; only twice has her contract renewal been put up for vote by the school board since she became chief auditor in 2013.

In Barr’s lawsuit, she said board members Russell Kuehn and Kathleen Causey created a hostile environment for her starting in 2019 and that they issued threats in an attempt to influence her work. The board’s motion for dissolution denies this, citing a 2019 investigation from an outside law firm that “found no evidence that any member of the board took adverse employment action against Mrs. Barr when she refused to act on requests she considered inappropriate.”

Board Chair and spokeswoman for the board Julie Henn declined to comment, stating the board cannot comment on personnel matters.

Barr is also appealing her termination to the Maryland Board of Education, and the Baltimore County board has until July 1 to respond.

Barr has worked in the Baltimore County Public Schools Office of Internal Audit for 36 years.


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