Broward ethics panel to take public comments
By Patricia Mazzei
January 6, 2010
The Commission on Education Excellence Through Integrity, Public Ethics and Transparency will seek public input at 6 p.m. Monday at the Dillard Center for the Arts, 2501 NW 11th St., Fort Lauderdale.
The independent group was convened after the September arrest of suspended School Board member Beverly Gallagher in a federal corruption probe. Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to charges that she took $12,500 from undercover FBI agents for a promise to influence a decision on a school construction project.
To serve on the commission, Superintendent Jim Notter chose former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth; Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, a former state legislator; and attorney W. George Allen, who filed the lawsuit that forced the district to desegregate almost 40 years ago.
Then on Friday we heard...
My emphasis in red below
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Ethics panel set for first public hearing on school district
By Kathy Bushouse, Sun Sentinel
January 10, 2010
In the past few months, the Broward school district has been hammered by the arrest of a School Board member, allegations of contractor ripoffs and an investigation of a transportation department besieged by accusations of nepotism and sexual harassment.
On Monday, the panel created in October to scrutinize the district's policies and practices will have its first public hearing to set priorities on what it should investigate.
"We're going out to see what the people want," said attorney W. George Allen.
Allen, former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler are running the Commission on Education Excellence Through Integrity, Public Ethics and Transparency.
They have not set a firm timetable for the investigation.
The panel was created by Broward Schools Superintendent James Notter and School Board member Maureen Dinnen after the Sept. 23 arrest of Beverly Gallagher on corruption charges involving school construction, and shortly after board member Stephanie Kraft disclosed her husband's business ties to School Board lobbyist Neil Sterling.
The Florida Commission on Ethics also is investigating a complaint against Kraft that she misused her position to help Prestige Homes developer Bruce Chait.
Chait was arrested in December and charged by state prosecutors with bribery, unlawful compensation and perjury.
Earlier, in the summer, district auditors alleged two contractors ripped off more than $750,000 after Hurricane Wilma repairs.
The auditors said there were signs of collusion and coercion, as well as inflated and falsified documents so the companies could be paid.
After the panel was formed, the school district began an investigation into its transportation department.
The department's top two administrators — Ruben Parker, director of transportation services, and Lucille Greene, director of student transportation — were reassigned. Officials won't discuss specific reasons for the investigation.
But the Broward Teachers Union asked Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum for independent investigations last month. The union said the transportation department's problems included kickbacks in exchange for jobs, bus safety issues, nepotism and sexual harassment.
The governor forwarded the union's complaint to the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor.
That office is the "best entity to not only review the material but also to intitiate any necessary investigations," said Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey.
McCollum's office said the union's concerns are outside the attorney general's jurisdiction. McCollum's office reccomended the union contact the state's ethics commission, auditor general or the statewide grand jury, according to a letter dated Dec. 17.
Allen said the group spent the past two months getting organized. Now that the group is ready to work, he hopes to move quickly and make recommendations the district will adopt.
"I would hate to do work and then just turn it in as a written report, and nothing happens," Allen said.
Notter said the district would not automatically adopt all of the panel's recommendations but will consider them. He said all the district's operations and policies are open for review.
"They're going to come back with items that we need to revise, revamp, tweak, or frankly, maybe initiate brand-new," Notter said.
Monday's hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Dillard Center for the Arts, 2501 NW 11th St., Fort Lauderdale. For those unable to attend, the commission also is working on a website with an e-mail address and telephone number so people can send in tips.
The panel was promised complete independence from the district. Its leaders won't be paid, but the district will foot the bill for the staff.
Butterworth, Seiler and Allen were picked because of their long histories of community service.
Allen's selection raised some questions because he is registered as a lobbyist representing Bencor Inc., a company that offers alternatives to Social Security for district employees.
Allen said he didn't view it as a conflict because he hasn't lobbied for the company for years.
So far, the panel has met with some skepticism. One teacher sent e-mail to Seiler, saying she was concerned that Notter and Dinnen "handpicked a three-man (no woman) commission for a 90-day fact-finding analysis."
But such panels can be a step toward restoring public confidence in a beleaguered institution, said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
"I think that putting together a group like this is probably a good idea, especially where you've had many instances of alleged corruption or ethical violations," Jewett said. "… I'm not going to say that empanelling a group of citizens to look at this is going to solve all the problems, but it is a good step."
Kathy Bushouse can be reached at kbushouse@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4556.
How did Broward Schools Supt. James Notter's
Three Amigos NOT already have some means
of broadcasting or webcasting Monday night's
meeting figured-out by 5 p.m. last Friday?
Talk about gross incompetentcy!
(FYI: That's at the SAME time and date as
Broward County's previously-scheduled first
official Census 2010 meeting of social/religious/
community activists, which happens to be at
the Hallandale Beach Cultural Center.
If these Broward School geniuses had any
common sense, they'd grab some of those
BECON TV cameras that Broward taxpayers
have ALREADY paid for and truck them
to Dillard to air Butterworth & Co. LIVE
on Channel 63. That would be so easy, and yet...
I'd call Ann Murray's School Board office
to find out why this isn't taking place if I
thought I'd get a straight answer out of her,
Maybe if every official person with a Ed.D.
after their name is shivering in that room at
Dillard Monday night, someone downtown
will get off their butt and finally fix the
thermostat that controls school room temps,
so it's not as cold inside as it is outside.
Wow, that should've been the media
lede last week:
clueless Broward Schools HQ!
See Akilah Johnson's blog post on that
from Thursday at bottom.
If you're going to tomorrow night's meeting,
I recommend a visit to Target beforehand,
and get some Coleman-brand hand warmers
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Schools blog
Broward classrooms just as cold as outside, teachers say
Posted by Akilah Johnson
Students and teachers in many Broward County public schools didn’t shed their scarves and gloves once this week’s lessons began. Instead, they shivered inside classrooms nearly as cold as the weather outside.
Read rest of this at: