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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Latest on Broward School Board ethics, slow-moving Bob Butterworth Integrity Crew; Adios, Gottlieb & Murray!

Some of you may recall that back on January 28th, I sent out
an email and then posted as a blog posting most of the following:


If you really want to spend some time chasing your tail,
try going to the website of the Broward School system group
I've been referring to here in emails and in blog posts as the
Three Amigos, a.k.a. the Commission on Education
Excellence Through Integrity, Public Ethics and
Transparency
,
http://browardschoolsintegrity.org/



Using their own website, try to find the time, date and location
of their next public meeting.
Go ahead.
Really, go ahead.
It's not there.

In fact, the only thing that has been added tothe website since
it came online are links to news articles about the group.
And nothing since January 12th, the day after their first and
only public meeting.
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/videobeta/watch/?watch=2a16c099-dbad-4b75-8f0c-a64769278b58&src=front

To me, that sounds a lot more like a fan's celebrity website than
an actual watchdog group's efforts to get the public engaged.
Time's a wastin'.

Well, today, February 7th, ten days later, guess what has
changed?
Hardly anything!

They've now listed info about their next meeting on Feb. 22nd
in Coconut Creek, having previously met on January 10th at
Dillard.
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/videobeta/watch/?watch=2a16c099-dbad-4b75-8f0c-a64769278b58&src=front

Really?
Six weeks in-between public meetings for a watchdog
group that has a limited shelf-life to begin with?

And what about a public meeting in SE Broward?
Off the top of my head, I can think of at least five locales in
Hollywood and Hallandale Beach that are more than capable
of handling the number of taxpayers and parents who would
attend such a meeting, with plenty of room for media.

In case you were wondering about my clever suggestion
previously that the January 10th Butterworth & Company
public meeting could've been and should've been televised
on the Broward School Board's own cable channel, BECON-TV,
using the very TV cameras that Broward taxpayers have
already paid for, I received a lot of email responses seconding
that motion.

Frankly, many people wondered why nobody else thought of it,
including the highly-paid legal staff at the Broward School Board,
much less, Butterworth himself, the former Attorney General
of Florida
.

Everyone who has contacted me so far on that issue also believes
that all the future meetings of the so-called Integrity group be
televised, recorded and replayed so that more people can see it
for themselves.

(FYI: Turns out that BECON/Channel 63 is also available on
DirecTV, unlike the County's cable channel, which as I found
out this past week
in investigating the Courthouse issue, is
unable
-or unwilling?- to replay their own webcasts of
Commission meetings on their own website,
something the
City of Hollywood has been doing for years.
Hm-m-m...)

After I sent that email out ten days ago, I got very curious
about what was more important than the School Board
introducing taxpayers and parents to the three men that
Supt. James Notter selected to clean things up.


For the record, here's what BECON-TV showed the night
they could've taken a small step towards accountability and
transparency by showing
Butterworth & Company:
http://www.becon.tv/becon-tv-schedules

6:00 pm Historic Hotels of America : Le P Avillon
6:30 pm Broward School Beat : Episode 45
7:00 pm Untold Stories : Barnstormers to Blue Angels
7:30 pm Dateline Health Nsu : Public Health Dh#277


Early next week, I'm going to send an email to Supt.
James Notter
and the School Board Attorney directly
asking them to put a fire under Butterworth & Company
and get them to actually put useful info on that Integrity
website, and to fully explain why BECON-TV can't or
shouldn't be televising future public Integrity meetings.

By the way, one good reason why you don't want to follow
"Broward
School Board" as a subject on Twitter is
three and three-quarter
pages of the same Tweet,
hour-after-hour for about five days

http://twitter.com/search?q=%22Broward%20School%20Board%22

Not that
http://twitter.com/browardschoolnw is of much use either.

The things you find out when you take a hard look
at a very dysfunctional crew.



www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/fl-pavarini-westglades-20100206,0,7655196.story

South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

A costly lesson: Broward school district mistakenly pays out $290,000
Return money or be sued, builder told

By Megan O'Matz, Sun Sentinel
February 7, 2010

In the midst of a crushing budget crisis, the Broward school district mistakenly paid more than $290,000 to a Fort Lauderdale firm for a school classroom addition that it quickly scrapped. Now the district finds itself in the awkward position of asking for the money back.

If Pavarini Construction Co. refuses, the district could be headed for a costly legal battle. According to Pavarini President Gary W. Glenewinkel, the company is "in the process of reviewing our records and all data related to this issue."

The error upset the district's new head of construction, Thomas E. Lindner, who took over in early January after the former administrator retired.

"You can't rubber-stamp invoices, even if they're for $5," Lindner said. Asked if the district mistakenly paid other construction companies, he said he doesn't know but is going to find out.

"This is just one that I discovered," he said.

District auditors are now reviewing how the error occurred. Lindner said he will consider their findings and determine how to ensure it doesn't happen again.

The district's construction department has been under intense scrutiny after the September arrest of suspended School Board member Beverly Gallagher. She was snared in an FBI sting for allegedly taking bribes to rig construction contracts.

On April 21, the School Board agreed to hire Pavarini to handle the construction of a $6.7 million, 24-room addition to Westglades Middle School in Parkland.

The company stood to make $581,365 in management fees for the project's initial "pre-design" and "design" phases.

But declining enrollment and years of aggressive building left the district with thousands of empty seats. State officials ordered the district to halt its building spree. In August, the School Board voted to abandon the Westglades project along with scores of others.

But by then, Pavarini had already submitted an invoice seeking payment for $387,596. The invoice is dated April 25, only four days after the contract was awarded.

A project manager for the school district reduced the amount due to $290,683 — half of the $581,365 — and approved payment May 11, records show.

"Four or five people sign invoices like this," Lindner said, but only two have access to the full project file: the project manager and a reviewer in the Capital Budget Department.

The invoice shows that Pavarini had hired a Coral Gables architectural firm, Wolfberg Alvarez & Partners, to design the addition.

Lindner said Pavarini was not entitled to any money because the district never issued a "Notice to Proceed" — a document authorizing companies to begin work. Lindner said he did not know if Pavarini or the architect did any work on the project at all, but if they did without the formal notice "that's on their nickel … not our nickel."

In a letter dated Jan. 25, Lindner asked Pavarini to refund the money. "If they decide not to, then we'll litigate for it," he said.

The district sues architects and contractors for mistakes their firms make on projects, but it can take years to recover the money, if ever.

School Board chairwoman Jennifer Gottlieb said she was unaware of the billing problem with Pavarini. "That's a lot of money," she said. "Apparently something fell through the cracks, and it seems it's a pretty expensive issue."

The payout left others scratching their heads as well.

"Why didn't school district employees check to make sure the project was going to be built before they cut a check of that size?" asked Nick Sakhnovsky, chairman of the school facilities task force. "Doesn't anyone review quarter-of-a-million-dollar checks?"

Reader comments at:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/fl-pavarini-westglades-20100206,0,901512,comment-display-all.story


I'll leave it to you to decide whether or not it's a positive sign
for oversight and accountability in the year 2010 that someone
who, as Chair of the Broward School Board, like Jennifer
Gottlieb
, is "unaware" of $290,000 mistakes, or even
whether there are many more such ticking time-bombs out
there, waiting to go off.

Personally, as you may surmise from my previous critical
comments about them here, under no circumstances would
I vote for the re-election of Jennifer Gottlieb or Ann
Murray
in November.

To me, they have consistently proven thru their own words
and deeds that they are ineffective as representatives of
the taxpayers and parents of this county, especially if you
live in SE Broward and don't like what you see from them.

In short, their good intentions have NOT translated into
good results for children, parents or taxpayers.
They are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

That simple fact should be more than enough to tell you
that they ought to be replaced by people who are more
curious, serious and capable of providing the necessary
oversight and accountability for one of the largest school
systems in the country.

An institution whose self-evident weaknesses and chronic
inability to be truthful about its own actions actually repels
many out-of-state businesses from relocating here.

In my opinion, Jennifer Gottlieb and Ann Murray
have been given a free ride for quite some time.
Their free ride should end in November.

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