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Muckraker: Westminster youth nonprofit founder named suspect in alleged sexual solicitation of a minor

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Together We Own It sign on building and redacted report from Carroll County Sheriff’s Office

Katie Speert, the twenty-something Founder and Executive Director of the Westminster youth non-profit Together We Own It, who last year ran for Carroll County Board of Education but bowed out when her organization secured a moneyed contract with Carroll County Public Schools, has been named as the subject of a criminal investigation by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office for alleged sexual solicitation of a female minor, according to the Carroll Observer who obtained a redacted report from the Sheriff’s Office after speaking with multiple sources with direct knowledge of the investigation. 

In the report, Speert, a certified trauma professional pursuing a doctorate degree in community care and counseling according to a Linkedin profile in her name,  is alleged to have engaged in “sexting” via Instagram messenger with a seventeen year old girl who was a volunteer at the non-profit where youths come to hang out after school. Speert allegedly told the girl, who she was in a position of organizational and interpersonal power over, that she was “sexually attracted” to her as they exchanged messages and conversation about “vibrators”, “masturbation”, “previous sexual experiences”, and “fantasies”.      

The seventeen year old girl at issue first came to Together We Own It with her family when she was sixteen years old. Sometime later she began volunteering in a staff-like role, at which point Speert took the girl under her wing professionally. The two became close quickly, having personal conversations about everything from the girl’s trauma to Speert’s business plans. The girl said she felt like Speert was her big sister and support system because she did not have one at home. 

After engaging in the alleged sexting, Speert reportedly instructed the girl to delete the messages between them. The girl did, and some time passed. It was only a good while later when the girl, now nineteen, realized how inappropriate the conversations between her and Speert were, and disclosed them to an authority figure in January of this year, prompting the Sheriff’s Office to open an investigation into Speert for alleged “sexual solicitation of a minor”, which in Maryland occurs anytime someone “commands, urges, entices, requests, authorizes or advises a child to have sexual relations” including over the “internet” or by “phone” according to the law offices of Charles Waechter. 

On January 18th, the Sheriff’s Office sent a preservation letter to Facebook asking that the Instagram messages between Speert and the girl be preserved. On February 10th, the Sheriff’s Office presented the case to the Carroll County State’s Attorney who was unable to pursue criminal charges because the age of consent in Maryland is sixteen. State’s Attorney Haven Shoemaker later explained to the Carroll Observer: 

“As the victim was 17 years old at the time of the communications, although they were highly immoral and morally repugnant, Ms. Speert did not commit a criminal act.  Had the victim been below the age of 16, (even if she had been 15 years and 364 days old) the analysis would have been totally different.” 

That same night, still February 10th, Together We Own It posted this message to its Facebook: “Please keep our Together We Own It family in your thoughts and prayers tonight”.

On February 16th, the Sheriff’s Office went to Together We Own It to inform Speert she had been the subject of a criminal investigation, but that charges were not being pursued.   

On March 11th, Speert, a wife and mother who grew up in Carroll, published a statement to the Together We Own It Facebook page saying she was taking a “partial sabbatical” from the organization she founded to “recharge, spend time with my family, and work on my research”. She wanted the organization’s followers to know that “If you’re struggling with your mental health, please know that help is out there”.

As of the time of this writing, Speert is still listed on Together We Own It website as the organization’s Executive Director.

The Carroll Observer confirmed that the contract between Carroll County Public Schools and Together We Own It was terminated after the school system and Board of Education learned of the allegations against Speert and the criminal investigation into her conduct.

The Observer spoke with one Together We Own It Board member who had no knowledge of the allegations or the investigation. 

According to ProPublica, Together We Own It had a total revenue of $150,695 in 2020, with Speert receiving $34,760 in compensation. In September of 2020, Together We Own It was awarded funding from the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services to create “change” in the community.

When the Carroll Observer reached out to Speert, sharing the Sheriff’s Office report and requesting comment, Speert said:

“Thank you for reaching out about this matter. I was made aware of the complaint made to Child Protective Services. I was not, interviewed by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department during any part of their investigation. I was unaware that there was an investigation going on until it was closed. The statements you have shared from the Sheriff’s Office reflect a one-sided story of an investigation that was closed as unfounded.”

After speaking with the girl who is the alleged victim, have two corrections to make:

A previous version of this article said the girl spoke about her “foster care trauma”, when indeed it was just her “trauma”

A previous version of this article said the girl and the subject exchanged messages about “vibrators”, “masturbation”, “previous sexual experiences”, and “fantasies”, when indeed they exchanged messages and had conversation about “vibrators”, “masturbation”, “previous sexual experiences”, and “fantasies”.   

All parties retain a presumption of innocence, and the contents above are allegations

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