Florida grand jury says Broward County school board corrupt, should be abolished

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In a report released Friday, a special grand jury investigating the School Board of the nation’s sixth largest school district, accused it of rampant corruption and  reckless spending of taxpayer monies.

The Florida grand jury said that things are so bad, that if it had the power, it would abolish the Broward County School Board.

“We cannot imagine any level of incompetence that would explain what we have seen,’’ reads a report compiled by the grand jury. “Therefore we are reluctantly compelled to conclude that at least some of this behavior can best be explained by corruption of our officials by contractors, vendors and their lobbyists.

The report also said that the district superintendent Jim Notter, was not strong enough to run the school system.

The 51-page report provides details of Board members of taking political donations from contractors and vendors doing business with the district, and handing out millions of dollars of contracts for goods and services to those supporters.

The report concludes:

“The corruptive influence here is most often campaign contributions from individuals with a financial stake in how Board members vote. Long ago the Board should have recognized the risk that putting themselves in the center of handing out hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars would inevitably drawn attention and undue influence from moneyed interests…Only now, years later and with pressure from all sides, have they begun to take steps to resolve this and other issues.

“Unfortunately based on the history of this Board as an institution, we have no confidence in their ability to make meaningful changes and to adhere to them. The solutions we see, at least short term, are to remove as much power and influence from the Board as possible and to have an independent outside authority monitor their dealings closely.’’

According to The Miami Herald, the recommendations included:

Refuse campaign contributions from contractors, vendors and others doing business with the Board.

Require mandatory ethics training and testing by an outside agency.

All late additions to the Board’s agenda must be discussed at a public meeting.

Add more detail to agenda items or provide a link to where more information concerning the item can be found.

Reduce the threshold on spending items on the consent agenda.

Remove retainer reductions from consent agenda.

Require recommendation of the Superintendent or the Deputy Superintendent for reduction in retainer to be in writing and under their signature.

End the influence of the Board over the Building department by turning over inspections to local building departments.

Reduce number of school board members to 5.

Place before the voters the issue of electing the Superintendent.

Create independent office of Inspector General to monitor the Board and District

Prohibit board members from being involved in the selection of contractors, vendors, or financial institutions.

No official business should be conducted between school board members and staff

All bids should be opened in public, with Auditor there to certify bids met minimums.

No decisions should be made anywhere other than a regularly scheduled board meeting.

No discussions should be had other than at Board meetings or workshops as per Sunshine Law requirements.

Prohibit gifts of any value to any Board member or District employee from anyone doing business with the District or lobbying the Board

Empower Department of Education to penalize districts that don’t file require paperwork by withholding any state funds until certificates of occupancy, inspections and other project documents are filed.

The report also recommended that an outside monitor be appointed to review every action of the current Board.

The Miami Herald

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