Katie Speert announced this week that she is dropping out of the race for a seat on the Carroll County Board of Education. Speert was one of eight candidates who filed to run for three open seats on the board.
Speert, executive director of Westminster nonprofit Together We Own It, said the organization was awarded funding from a partnership with the Carroll County Public Schools system through the federal American Rescue Plan, creating a conflict of interest.
She announced her decision to withdraw from the race in an emotional Facebook video post on June 8.
“This decision was and continues to be one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” she said in an email. “On one hand, I am thrilled for an organization I founded at 19 years old. I recognize that I will be able to do so much to fulfill my original campaign platform through the organization with this partnership.”
Speert, a Carroll County native and 2014 graduate of Westminster High School, founded Together We Own It when she was 19 years old. The nonprofit has served hundreds of children and families affected by trauma across Carroll County, by offering mentoring and other services.
Speert said accepting the funding for her nonprofit would be a violation of the Carroll County Code of Ethics if she was elected to the school board. The code states that a Carroll County official or employee may not participate in “an entity doing business with the county in which a direct financial interest is owned by another entity in which the official or employee has a direct financial interest, if the official or employee may be reasonably expected to know of both direct financial interests.”
On June 6, Speert sought guidance and confirmation about the possible conflict from the Carroll County Board of Elections.
“As soon as I found out, [I] posed the question,” Speert said. “However, I did not receive a response to confirm that this would be a conflict from their perspective. After consulting with my legal counsel, they determined that the acceptance of funds through [Carroll County Public Schools] would present me with a conflict of interest if I were to be elected as an official member of the Carroll County Board of Education.
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“With this new availability of funds under the American Rescue Plan, Together We Own It’s agreement with the school system will change. The change will go into effect this summer and go through September 2023, which would overlap with my first year as a member of the Board of Education, if elected,” she added.
Speert’s name will remain on the primary election ballot, as they already have been created.
Kate Hupp, a Carroll County parent who supported Speert’s candidacy, called her withdrawal “disappointing.”
“I think she would’ve made an excellent addition to our Board of Ed, [however] I’m so glad there are still three other great candidates in the race that could really help move our county forward,” Hupp said, adding that she would support “the Apple Ballot” candidates, or those endorsed by the Carroll County Education Association and the Maryland State Education Association. These candidates include incumbent Pat Dorsey, Amanda Jozkowski, and Tom Scanlan.
Other candidates on the school board ballot include incumbent Tara Battaglia, James Miller, Pat Sands, and Steve Whisler.
The primary election will be held on July 19. Voters may choose three candidates for school board on their ballots. The top six vote-getters in will advance to the general election.