I draw your attention today to this sentence from the spot-on story by the Sun-Sentinel's Megan O'Matz below about more of the low-lights at the dysfunction junction that is the Broward County School system.
"Instead of immediately pressing AshBritt to return the money, the district hired the Miami accounting firm, Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant, to review the auditors' findings. A year later, the firm has yet to issue a report."
I'm afraid I'm going to have to give Ed Marko & Co. another big "F" for failure to perform his duties in an appropriate and timely fashion. You hired a firm who couldn't do the job within a year?
$150 for a Mop Bucket?And Marko's the genius the School Board wants to have hang around to educate a new School Board general counsel? What, as an example of what NOT to do?
Ed Marko is to Broward County school kids' education what a screwdriver is to a successful Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner: completely un-necessary.
In case you forgot, in 2009 the Broward County Commission approved an initial payment of $13.6 million to pay the architectural firm Spillis Candela & Partners to design the new courthouse tower.
re Pompano's Beach-based AshBritt, Inc., see past articles on them in the BrowardPalmBeach NewTimes at http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.co
$150 for a Mop Bucket?
AshBritt Accused of Overcharging County Too
By Bob Norman,
Mon., Aug. 31 2009 @ 1:25PM
You know that AshBritt audit that showed the Broward County School Distrist was overcharged some $765,000 after Hurricane Wilma?
You know, the one that Supt. Jim Notter and the board members were outraged about because it told the truth about what was happening?
Well, a very similar circumstance with AshBritt and its now-defunct subcontractor C&B Services -- both of whom were represented by megalobbyist Ron Book -- occurred in the halls of Broward County government.
One of the more glaring examples, according to a county document was AshBritt's charging the county $149 for a... mop bucket.
See the rest of the post at:
South Florida Sun-Sentinelhttp://www.sun-sentinel.com/
AshBritt sues over Broward schools' claim the firm should refund $765,000
Megan O'Matz, Sun Sentinel
4:41 PM EST, November 22, 2010
A Pompano Beach company, pummeled in an audit for allegedly cheating the Broward School District out of more than $765,000 for Hurricane Wilma repair work, has asked a judge to rule the firm was entitled to every cent it charged taxpayers.
In a suit filed in Broward Circuit Court on Election Day, AshBritt Inc. is calling on the court to referee its 17-month battle with the School District over nearly $2.2 million paid for cleanup from the 2005 storm.
Though the debris-removal company has not been formally asked to return any money, AshBritt CEO Randal Perkins said he wants the court to restore AshBritt's reputation by declaring it "was entitled to receive the amounts charged."
It also wants the school district to pay its court costs and as well as any other money the judge "deems just, equitable and proper."
The suit comes only weeks after the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in a separate audit, found the school system could not justify nearly $15 million in federal reimbursements for hurricane cleanup and repairs. No companies were named in that review.
AshBritt's legal filing is the latest volley in a war provoked by district auditors who issued a report in June 2009 claiming that AshBritt "grossly overcharged" the school system. The review found "clear signs of coercion and falsified documents" by district administrators and staff, as well as "overbilling and double billing" by the company.
Perkins told the Sun Sentinel last week that: "This has dragged on long enough."
"We did nothing wrong," he said. "We did not overbill. We did not overcharge."
Broward School District Assistant General Counsel Tom Cooney declined comment on the AshBritt suit and referred questions to the district's general counsel, Ed Marko, who did not respond to two messages left by the Sun Sentinel.
Instead of immediately pressing AshBritt to return the money, the district hired the Miami accounting firm, Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant, to review the auditors' findings. A year later, the firm has yet to issue a report.
The district's Audit Committee, an advisory group, has repeatedly asked for an accounting of how much the district has paid Berkowitz but has been rebuffed.
"I have not received a specific bill for the services rendered," Marko told the committee at its Oct. 25th meeting.
He said he preferred not to receive a bill because it would reveal aspects of the district's legal strategy and would be subject to disclosure under Florida's public records law.
"We didn't want anything in writing that would indicate I did X number of things, talked specifically to X or to Y, etc…" Marko said.
The district did not respond to a records request made more than a week ago by the Sun Sentinel for the amount paid to Berkowitz.
AshBritt contracts with local, state and federal agencies to clean up debris after disasters. It dove in to help in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and is assisting in removing rubble after the earthquake in Haiti.
The controversy involving the school district stretches back to October 2005, when Hurricane Wilma hit Broward County, damaging many portable classrooms.
On Nov. 2, 2005, the district's head of construction, Michael Garretson, who has since died, held a meeting with staff, representatives of C&B Services of Texas, and Ron Book, a politically connected Broward lobbyist, according to auditors.
Garretson directed staff to issue C&B a purchase order of up to $1 million to repair portable classrooms. The work was not competitively bid because of the emergency.
Weeks later, a district cost estimator, Thomas Myers, alerted administrators that invoices from C&B were "two times the industry standard rates for the work documented," according to the audit.
In mid-January 2006, Myers further warned that C&B was not a licensed Florida contractor and was not insured or registered to do business in the state.
The district refused to pay the bills until getting legal advice from Marko's office.
Months later, auditors learned AshBritt was "being identified as the prime contractor for all work that was provided by C&B Services."
Though the district originally set a $1 million limit on C&B's work, C&B billed for $2 million, including the replacement of roofs that were not authorized and had no documented damage, the audit found.
The audit contends C&B's invoices were not paid until AshBritt was selected by the district to process the invoices with a mark up.
Auditors wrote that AshBritt overbilled the district $237,580 in increased overhead, profit, mark up and per diem labor rates for portable roof repairs, as well as $528,028 for interior work "which was either not performed at all or was double-billed."
The audit accuses the district's construction department of creating a "fraudulent documentation trail to justify payment," to AshBritt.
CEO Perkins declined to talk to the Sun Sentinel about specifics of the audit or AshBritt's relationship to C&B.
Garretson, the district's chief of construction at the time, said the report was full of "accusations and innuendo" that amounted to "slander."
In a July 16, 2009, memo to the auditors, Garretson denied the district was overcharged, saying the work was necessary and verified and consistent with market prices at the time.
More than a year ago, he was subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury investigating corruption in the school system. He was instructed to bring along all records related to AshBritt.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami last week declined to confirm the existence of an investigation, much less the status of it.