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Sunday, February 27, 2011
Megan O'Matz on the detailed response to the statewide Grand Jury that Broward Schools' James Notter must issue by March 2nd -or else
If anything, reading the O'Matz article a few times only underscores the genuine depth of outrage I've heard among both my own well-informed friends and the average Broward citizens I've seen and heard speak publicly on this matter, since the statewide Grand Jury revealed last Friday that hundreds of millions of dollars were likely squandered away in unnecessary school construction in this county.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
State demands answers from Broward Schools about grand jury report
Notter given til March 2 to submit plan of action
By Megan O'Matz, Sun Sentinel
8:38 PM EST, February 24, 2011
The Florida Department of Education is considering whether to launch its own probe of the Broward School District in light of a grand jury report accusing the School Board of "gross mismanagement."
In a letter Tuesday to School Board Chairman Benjamin Williams, Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith said that by law his agency's Office of Inspector General is required to investigate if the School Board is "unwilling or unable to address substantiated allegations made by any person relating to waste, fraud, or financial mismanagement within the school district."
The state asked that by March 2 the district submit a plan of action to address the grand jury's findings and recommendations. It should "include specific steps taken or planned,'' wrote Smith, who was not available for an interview Thursday.
Schools Superintendent Jim Notter said Williams will reply by March 2 with a "point by point" report of what's been done and what still needs to be done. Notter noted that the grand jury spent a year looking at the district, and he and the board would have liked more than a few days to prepare a response. On Tuesday, he had promised a response within 45 days.
The Statewide Grand Jury on Public Corruption concluded a year-long investigation of Broward schools this month and released a report last Friday saying the mismanagement and ineptitude were so pervasive it could only be explained by "corruption of our officials by contractors, vendors and their lobbyists."
The grand jury issued no indictments but said it regretted that, under the state constitution, it could not abolish the whole School Board.
By law, the Office of Inspector General can conduct, coordinate or request investigations into allegations of financial mismanagement across all 67 Florida school districts and the community colleges.
The office has the power to report to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or other law enforcement agencies "whenever the inspector general has reasonable grounds to believe there has been a violation of criminal law," according to statute.
As the investigative arm of the grand jury, FDLE interviewed witnesses and gathered reams of documents related to the Broward School District.
The grand jury accused the School Board of steering work to favored contractors and consultants with little or no public discourse, pushing costly and unnecessary pet projects, opening new schools without the proper safety inspections and repairs, retaliating against whistleblowers, and failing to keep basic and crucial records.
Notter, who has overseen the district since late 2006, was harshly criticized for failing to curb the abuses.
Talmadge W. Fair, chairman of the state Board of Education, which is the policymaking body for all Florida school districts, said it would be unfair to comment before receiving Notter's official response.
"Due process must be allowed to run its course," he said, adding that he has not spoken to Notter but is "anxiously awaiting" his next steps.
Finding that the problems with the Broward Schools have been longstanding, the grand jury said it had no confidence the School Board would "make meaningful changes" and adhere to them.
It suggested the board be stripped of as much power as possible and "an independent outside authority" installed to monitor the district.
Fair said the state cannot appoint an overseer. "The local School Board has the power," he said.
Under the state constitution, Gov. Rick Scott can suspend School Board members and other elected officials for "malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony."
Scott's office has not returned repeated e-mails and calls seeking comment on what action, if any, he will take.
Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for state Attorney General last year, thinks the Broward School Board is fully capable of instituting stronger integrity measures. Four of the nine board members were first elected in November.
"Often, in the wake of this kind of bad press, people take it as an opportunity to reform," he said.
Reader comments at: http://discussions.sun-sentinel.com/20/soflanews/fl-grand-jury0224-20110224/10
"Often, in the wake of this kind of bad press, people take it as an opportunity to reform."
In South Florida?
Hmm-m... when was that that exactly?
I have no experience of such a thing EVER happening here since my family relocated to South Florida in 1968, especially among a large group of elected officials who already stand convicted in the court of public opinion for being both incompetent and corrupt, and whose feeble and self-serving responses since the Grand Jury's final report came out is both underwhelming and insulting in the extreme, with Gottlieb and Murray leading that sorry parade.
Yes, this rather queer and disconnected response of Dan Gelber's reminds me all over again why I made a point of writing in this space a few times last year about why I wouldn't be voting for him, in either the Democratic primary or in the general election, voting for Dave Aronberg
and Pam Bondi, respectively, instead.
The most noteworthy of those reasons was Gelber's longstanding short-sightedness, in that despite all of his years of experience in politics, he STILL literally CAN'T see what the rest of us living in this area could see about many of his supporters among the Broward elected elite, and their highly questionable anti-democratic behavior and strange sense of ethics.
For the life of me, at first, I couldn't understand why Megan O'Matz chose to ask Dan Gelber his opinion, but having done so, his tin-ear response not only reaffirms my relief that he was not elected Attorney General of the Sunshine State, but also made me realize that perhaps she was just being sly, in that Gelber talking about Notter's Crew was simply birds-of-a-feather.
You see, who better to ask about a ridiculous situation where highly-paid people in charge didn't know what was going on and seemed to care not a whit about the consequences of that inaction than a guy like Dan Gelber, who acted at the time like there'd be no real consequences for moving the 2008 Florida presidential primary up to a date that the DNC specifically had forbidden and warned there'd be severe penalties.
But he did it anyway, didn't he?
Or perhaps unlike me, you've forgotten about his championing the idea of a "revote" that would cost millions of taxpayer dollars?
Well, I haven't.
James Notter and Dan Gelber together again.
But as usual, they're looking for others to pay for their indifference.
Not to say I told you so, but I did.
That's how they roll...
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