Andrea Barr, the recently fired chief auditor of Baltimore County Public Schools, filed a letter of appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education on June 16, asserting that she was terminated unlawfully.
During a school board meeting May 15, the board held a vote on whether to renew Barr's contract. Barr had been employed by the Office of Internal Audit since 1986 and became chief auditor in 2013 without "a single blemish on [her] record," she wrote in her appeal. However, her contract renewal failed, not because of votes in favor of termination but board members choosing not to vote at all.
Board members Moalie Jose, Rod McMillion, John Offerman, Makeda Scott, Erin Hager and student board member Christian Thomas voted in favor of Barr's contract renewal. Lily Rowe and Russell Kuehn recused themselves; Kathleen Causey, Lisa Mack and chairwoman Julie Henn abstained. The motion to renew the contract required seven votes.
Barr, through her appeal, asks that the vote be stricken immediately and "the matter be called for an emergency lawfully conducted vote overseen by the Maryland State Board of Education." She also requested offending board members to "be investigated and considered for removal for their actions."
Throughout Barr's more than three decades with the county schools, her contract renewal has only been put up for vote by the school board twice. She wrote that this practice is not commonplace; rather, her contract had only required superintendent approval in the past. The first vote took place in spring 2020 following an independent investigator's report. Seven board members voted in favor of the renewal. Five other members, including then-chairwoman Causey, chose not to vote. Causey had been named in the independent investigation and in the aftermath threatened Barr's employment, according to Barr's appeal letter.
Barr wrote that she began to experience a hostile work environment in 2019, specifically from Causey and then-audit committee chair Kuehn. She said the pair "initiated a campaign of pressure and threats to influence the work of" the Office of Internal Audit.
"That culminated in express threats to fire me or even to go so far as to abolish the Office of Internal Audit if I did not bend to their personal agendas," Barr wrote. "Some of that behavior was also directed at the external auditor."
Causey and Keuhn did not reply to immediate requests for comment.
Since 2019, Barr has overseen two audits of the board that revealed "irregularities and improper expenditures," according to the appeal. The second audit happened this April.
Prior to the board's vote last month, Superintendent Darryl Williams, who has recently faced criticism from the Baltimore County Council, sent Barr a renewal of employment letter on April 1, which she accepted within the week. Following the May 17 board meeting, the chief human resources officer sent Barr a letter stating "the board failed to renew your contract for the 2022-2023 school year" and expressing gratitude for her more than 35 years with the school system. Barr's last day is June 30.
The school board's deadline to file its dissent is July 1.