Baltimore County Councilman Wade Kach is urging the Baltimore County school board to vote down an agenda item that, if passed, would lift a ban put in place last year which prevents certain school personnel from destroying records.
“In the strongest terms, I urge the school board to reject this measure,” said Kach in a letter directed to all members of the board. “As you know, there is an ongoing performance audit being conducted by the Maryland Office of Legislative Audit.” He said, because the auditor “relies on this directive in order to ensure their access to information, it makes little sense to lift the hold on these documents.”
On Tuesday, the board will vote on whether to lift or modify a directive that was put in place after reports surfaced last year that roughly 2,600 financial disclosure statements had been destroyed prior to a high profile procurement audit.
The financial documents were also destroyed while a reporter was in the process of actively requesting some of the records.
School personnel were permitted to destroy the records since they had exceeded a four-year document retention mandate. But the purging was unprecedented since the system had maintained over 20 years of financial disclosure statements until destroying them preceding the audit in which the auditor later noted that he was unable to access certain records because they had been destroyed.
The discussion on whether to lift the ban that currently prevents executive directors and above from destroying documents while a new audit is underway, follows reports last week that even more records were destroyed last year, even after the district was directed to cease all further record purges .
After the school board voted last year to place a hold on the destruction of all records, employees relocated, purportedly scanned and then destroyed boxes of records from a file room that contained accounting records and reimbursement forms, as first reported by The Gunpowder Gazette last week.
A list of what was destroyed was not provided to The Gunpowder Gazette by the school district, but a short explanation was provided that stated the records that had been destroyed “included vendor invoice documents” from the system’s accounts payable department.
The legislative audit that is underway, ordinarily performed on the school system every six years, began one year early this year and will look into various aspects of school operations, including contract procurement practices.
The last legislative audit, completed in 2015, flagged certain contracts in which school staff made use of cooperative agreements, sometimes called “piggybacked contracts,” where the district used terms pre-negotiated between other school districts and vendors. The auditors asked Baltimore County schools to make more of an effort to allow vendors to bid on jobs for the district.
Kach joins Delegate Robin Grammer who, last week, called on the school board to remove the agenda item from Tuesday’s meeting, altogether. After this story published, District Five Councilman David Marks also sent a letter to the school board, stating that he, too, opposes the ban reversal.
Kach, a Republican who represents the county’s third council district, is a former math teacher for the school system. He also worked as an auditor in the system’s Office of Internal Audit.
In the letter to board members, Kach encouraged Baltimore County schools to conduct a “full accounting of previous practices.”