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Ousted chief auditor for BCPS appeals firing to state

John Lee
Baltimore County School Board in 2020. Credit: John Lee

The Baltimore County Schools’ chief auditor, who was fired by the school board last month, is appealing that decision to the state board of education.

In a letter to the state board, Andrea Barr said her termination was unlawful. In 2019 two board members initiated a campaign of pressure and threats to interfere with the work of her office, she added.

Sources told WYPR that those two board members, Kathleen Causey and Russ Kuehn, were the subjects of a harassment complaint filed on Barr’s behalf. At the time, Causey was the board chair and Kuehn was the chair of the board’s audit committee.

School officials have not responded when asked about the outcome of that complaint.

Barr wrote she was threatened with being fired or her office being abolished “if I did not bend to their personal agendas.” Barr added the board members were trying “to develop audit results suiting their agenda and to obscure or erase fact-based findings, including fact-based findings regarding their own conduct.”

In an unusual vote May 17, six of the 11 county school board members present voted to renew Barr’s contract for another year. The other five, including Causey and Kuehn, did not vote. They either abstained or recused themselves.

It took seven votes for the contract to be renewed so it was terminated. At the time there was a vacancy on the 12-member board.

“Historically, personnel contract renewals were not the subject of a board vote at all,” Barr wrote. She said in the past it was signed by the school superintendent and the board chair.

That changed in 2020 after several investigations into the school board by the Maryland State Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, according to Barr.

“I have served as the primary point of contact” for those investigations, wrote Barr.

Barr said she conducted two of her own audits of the board’s spending, “both of which found irregularities and improper expenditures.”

Barr contends the vote to terminate her should be voided, in part because she received support from the majority of the board. She also argues that it is unlawful for board members to retaliate against her for investigating their misconduct.

Barr is asking the state board of education to oversee a new vote to renew her contract.

She also asks that “offending board members be investigated and be considered for removal for their actions.”

Board members Causey and Kuehn did not return a request for comment.

WYPR was unable to reach School Board Chair Julie Henn for comment. In the past she has declined to comment, saying it is a personnel issue.

Barr and her attorney both declined to comment.

Barr's contract with the school system ends June 30. She has worked for the school system for 36 years.

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