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Critics question why Baltimore County School Board fired the chief auditor

Baltimore County Public Schools Board Meeting
Kristen Mosbrucker
The Baltimore County Public Schools Board decided to fire its internal school system auditor.

A Maryland State Senator chastised five members of the Baltimore County School Board for not voting on the contract of the school system’s chief auditor, which led to her termination.

There were six votes in favor to renew auditor Andrea Barr’s contract but she needed seven votes. Five members of the board either abstained or recused themselves from voting without explanation.

State Sen. Charles Sydnor told the school board Tuesday night that declining to cast a vote on Barr with no further discussion was unconscionable.

“If a member recuses themselves or abstains, I believe they owe an explanation on the record as to why they have not voted yay or nay,” Sydnor, a Democrat who represents Baltimore County in District 44 said.

State Sen. Charles Sydnor admonished the board about firing its auditor.

“I’m disappointed that board members did not give Ms. Barr nor their constituents the courtesy of an up or down vote," he said. “These votes affect peoples’ lives."

When the board voted May 17 on Barr’s contract, members Russ Kuehn and Lily Rowe recused themselves while Kathleen Causey, Lisa Mack and Chair Julie Henn abstained, leaving only six members to vote. That doomed the contract’s renewal.

The five board members declined to comment to WYPR about why they did not vote.

In 2019, Barr filed a harassment and intimidation complaint against Kuehn and Causey, according to sources. At the time, both Kuehn and Causey were on the board’s audit committee.

A 2020 internal audit found that the school board overspent its operating budget in 2019 by more than $63,000. Causey was the board chair at the time.

School officials did not respond when asked how the harassment claim was resolved.

During Tuesday night’s board meeting, Joshua Muhumuza, a former student member of the school board, questioned whether the board has done anything to investigate the harassment complaint against two of its own members.

“I was alarmed by the bizarre vote that took place at the last board meeting to not renew the contract of the board’s independent chief auditor,” said Muhumuza, a student at Yale University who served on the board during the 2020-2021 school year.

“Was that vote in any way retaliation?”

The termination of Barr’s contract ends a 36-year career with the school system.

Barr has declined to comment.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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