Grand jury recommends DeSantis remove 4 Broward school board members


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A state grand jury released a report on Friday recommending that Gov. Ron DeSantis remove four seating Broward County Public Schools board members.

The school board members — Ann Murray, Donna Korn, Laurie Rich Levinsonand Patricia Good — facing accusations of “deceit, malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty and incompetence.” Florida Sen. Rosalind Osgood, the former chair of the school board, is also facing accusations.

“School board members are elected by the people and to say that they should be removed could be someone’s opinion,” Osgood said. “That is another portion of the grand jury report that I don’t agree with.”

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DeSantis petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury in 2019 to investigate the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Lori Alhadeff, a school board member and the mother of one of the 17 victims, released a statement saying the grand jury’s findings were distressing.

“Its findings of the many failures in our state’s schools are unacceptable, as are the numerous and well-documented instances of corruption, fraud, mismanagement, and incompetence it has revealed here in Broward County. Those who have been named in the report for wrongdoing must be held accountable,” Alhadeff wrote.

The grand jury also accused Murray, Korn, Levinson, Good, and Osgood of having a “fanatical desire to control data” to use it “to manipulate public perception.” Most of the charges are related to a $1 billion school safety program that voters approved in 2014.

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The grand jury reported there were delays and an almost 50% increase in cost due to a “slow-boiling frog that resulted from years of mismanagement” and a refusal to hold “leadership to account.”

The grand jury accused former Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie of failing the district: “Bluntly put, the lip service paid by Runcie and the Board to ‘safety concerns’ appears as Shakespeare noted in Macbeth, to be ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’”

Last year, the grand jury indicted Runcie on a perjury charge and he pleaded not guilty. DeSantis removed former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel from office in 2019.

The grand jury’s fourth report was finished last year, but it was released just as Korn is campaigning for re-election.

“Given the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, I have no information regarding what the grand jury heard, and I have not been permitted to review transcripts. I look forward to reviewing that information and reassuring our community that I have always placed our students first,” Korn said in a statement.

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Voters will turn out on Tuesday. The terms for Murray, Levinson, and Good end in November.

FINAL REPORT: Read the April 16, 2021 report

The SMART bond project

The Parkland school shooter used an AR-15 to fire in and out of classrooms on Feb. 14, 2018, at the school’s 1200 building. One of the examples that the grand jury cited was related to the chaos on the third floor.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission found the percussion of the gunshots caused the fire alarm to activate and teachers evacuated their classrooms. This, the grand jury wrote, “led to students evacuating into the shooter’s path.”

The need to upgrade the fire alarm was identified as a “top-priority item” in The SMART bond project in 2014, according to the grand jury.

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“While we do not have any evidence to outright declare that the combination of inaccurate data reporting, antipathy toward law enforcement, facile falsehoods by administration officials, or the astonishing mismanagement of SMART safety projects led directly to the MSD tragedy, neither can we say they played no role in creating the darkness in which this malignancy grew,” the grand jury wrote. “It is readily apparent that the toxic combination of these factors has, and continues to, put Broward County students at risk.”

Related documents:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission

This is a developing story.

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