Home National Weather Baltimore County Schools Chief Auditor Andrea Barr keeps her job during lawsuit, court decides – Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County Schools Chief Auditor Andrea Barr keeps her job during lawsuit, court decides – Baltimore Sun

by DrewLUD
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Baltimore County Schools Chief Auditor Andrea Barr gets to keep her job as the rest of her lawsuit ensues.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Sherrie R. Bailey granted Barr a preliminary injunction following Wednesday’s hearing and Thursday’s closing arguments. The preliminary injunction allows Barr to continue working. Her employment was kept in place by a temporary restraining order, which was set to end Thursday.

Barr is suing Baltimore County Schools and its school board, alleging her 36-year career was terminated unlawfully at a May 17 board meeting. The board voted 6-0 in favor of renewing her contract but said the motion could not pass because seven votes were required. Five board members chose not to vote, either abstaining or recusing themselves. Subsequently, Barr was told by the board her last day would be June 30.

“There’s some concerning information that’s been presented to this court,” Bailey said.

Bailey added that there is no harm to the school board with the continuation of Barr’s employment. Conversely, there would be irreparable harm to Barr should her career be terminated. She said Barr would also face much difficulty finding employment given the current state of the world. During the hearing, Barr said she never searched for other jobs, despite troubles at work, citing she could not find a comparable position at her age in this market.

The preliminary injunction lasts until the lawsuit is adjudicated.

“Whether Ms. Barr prevails remains to be seen,” Bailey said.

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Barr’s lawyer, Kathleen Cahill, argued the board orchestrated an “illegal scheme” to terminate Barr’s employment and has conducted adverse action toward Barr since 2019 despite her exceptional performance. Starting that year, Barr claimed her work environment soured as board members attempted to influence her work. This led to a “campaign of pressure and threats” from board members Kathleen Causey and Russell Kuehn.

Barr’s contract renewal was put up for its first vote the following year. The second time the board voted on her contract renewal was in May. In both cases, several board members chose not to vote. The only reason the 2022 vote did not pass, Cahill said, is because there was a board member vacancy at the time of the vote. In February, board member Cheryl Pasteur left the board to run for office.

Cahill said contract renewal language could only terminate Barr’s career based on cause or with a 90-day notice, neither of which were done. She also said there is no board policy for contract renewals, but it has been customary for the superintendent and board chair to sign off on renewals without conducting a board vote.

The plaintiff brought in an expert parliamentarian witness to speak to the validity of the 6-0 vote. He testified that after looking through state law, internal policy and parliamentary manual Robert’s Rules, the vote should have passed the motion.

The defense had a differing opinion, arguing that state law mandates seven board votes to pass a motion. They also said the plaintiff did not present direct testimony or evidence showing that certain board members conducted the vote with malintent or as a form of retaliation. Bailey spoke to this notion in her decision stating, “Intent is a state of mind and can’t be proven directly.”

Barr will continue argue her case in the circuit court, and she awaits further information on the appeal she sent to the Maryland Board of Education.

“Ms. Barr is very relieved and thrilled to have been provided the right to continue her exceptional career, to work hard for what is right and without threat or unlawful retaliation,” Cahill said.



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Source: Baltimore Sun