Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida, Europe and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura.
Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More business-as-usual at Broward School Board is NOT good news for students, parents or taxpayers; Why the need by Broward Schools officials to impose omertà on school volunteers in Broward?; the very curious Hallandale High School roof situation reveals much about School Board's culture; Why is South Florida news media largely ignoring Broward Schools Diversity Comm. and their Audit Comm.?



CBS4 News/WFOR-TV Miami video: Broward Committee Demands Action For Dilapidated School. Reported by Natalia Zea. February 28, 2011 10:42 PM. Article at 

Despite what she promised over 20 months ago, above, Broward School Board member Ann Murray never kept her promise to the community most directly-affected -Hallandale Beach.
In fact, she has assiduously avoided coming here and being subject to answering pointed questions from constituents about her behavior, judgment and votes.
It's an all-too-familiar refrain from Ann Murray -spouting nonsense, and thinking that the public will fall for her lies.

My last blog post, on various aspects of education policy, corruption and the recent election of new people to the Broward School Board, 
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/speaking-of-diversity-and-backsliding.html
had far too much information to digest for for one post, so I've decided to split it in two and have migrated the second part of it  here so that the important issues I raised can get the proper attention they deserve.
Why the need to impose omertà on school volunteers in Broward?
Just for the record, I'd like to state that among sincere people I know who are very concerned about education in this city, for both educational and business reasons, they honestly feel they've never publicly received an adequate public explanation for the cancelling of the follow-up tour earlier this year by the Broward Schools' Diversity Committee at Hallandale High School, and the overriding of a vote to have the meeting.

So there's no confusion on this point, Supt. Robert W. Runcie and School Board member Ann Murray are the ones who specifically owe this community a full explanation, not staffers.
Runcie said nothing about it on his recent trip to Hallandale Beach City Hall.
But that doesn't mean that people here have forgotten.

According to people who are in a position to know, Ann Murray and her crew looked at the numbers at Hallandale High and made the decision that they were fine with what they saw, and then she made the decision to NOT have the School system's Diversity Committee re-visit the scene of the crime.

Now onto the case of the curious leaking roof at Hallandale High School...

  From: Michael J. Marchetti
To: andrew@addinsol.com
Cc: RR ; Ann Murray ; Laurie Rich Levinson ; Robin Bartleman ; Patricia Good ; Benjamin J. Williams ; Nora A. Rupert ; Maureen S. Dinnen ; Donna Korn ; Katherine Leach ; charlotte8@comcast.net ; Thomas E. Lindner ;mjmsplace9@aol.com ; Patrick O. Reilly

Sent: Monday, May 28, 2012 9:47 AM
Subject: Hallandale High Re-roof Project


Andrew,

In reviewing the agenda items for tomorrow's board meeting I came across item number JJ7 to re-roof HallandaleHS. To my surprise FCM is utilizing the TPM delivery method which is something FCM management told the Board they would not use anymore. As you know TPM is almost identical to the CM@Risk delivery method that allows the District to negotiate as apposed to seeking the lowest contract amount through a competitive bid process. Again, FCM management when asked by the Board specifically said Cypress and Palmview were the last of these types of projects.

In review of the GMP numbers the proposed cost of work is 1,221,678.00 plus fees of 378,000. That translates to the District paying 30% of the cost of work in fees alone. Also noted FCM is justifying these numbers based on an audit done in 2007 by an outside firm when construction costs were at their highest. And finally FCM notes that the plans have been permitted under the old 2007 code but will be resubmitted to the new 2010 code. Why in the world would FCM negotiate a TPM contact with a roofing company as apposed to  hard bidding it after they had a permitted set of plans based on the new code? I suspect one of their answers would be that we came in under the approved budget. This is no special accomplishment when you consider that FCM establishes the budget themselves. If you set it high enough you can always look like a hero. The only way to get to the real number is to competitively bid the job.

It is hard for me to grasp the recent behavior of FCM management. They rushed to issue an NTP for the Zone 4 project when everyone knew there was a problem with the contract. I don't have exact numbers for the settlement but I am sure that cost the District needlessly as FCM management continued to argue on behalf of the contractor. They also continue to argue on behalf of the contractor for delays on the Cypress El. Kitchen project. This despite their own staff and now our internal auditors saying those claims are not justified. FCM and the contractor are claiming that a CCD was not promptly processed by the project manager that caused this extraordinary delay. If this were true FCM management should be held accountable for not having any kind of management report that would have red flagged this over site. The question is how does an important CCD go unprocessed for months without upper management not knowing this. Did they forget to discuss this issue in their staff meetings for six months?

Most recently I notified FCM staff and the Superintendent that they had issued a notice to proceed on the Cooper City HS phased replacement project with only a foundation permit. Again in complete contradiction to FCM management claims to the Board they would never start a project without a complete set of plans that was fully permitted. This past and now current practice of starting projects without complete plans and a permit have been denounced in the past two grand jury reports as always costing the District needlessly.

At the most recent Board workshop on the capital budget I spoke about the Stranahan HS funding of items that are clearly not an emergency or the most critical need of the District. This at the very workshop that Capital Budget came to announce to the Board that their intention was to only fund emergencies and equipment breakdowns because of the shortage of capital funds. Even the most casual observer could look at these events and see despite all of the verbose claims of being fixed and we have better processes now and better people in place are just empty words with no facts to substantiate them. It is clear to everyone that it is business as usual. It is especially clear to the employees who work hard and try to improve the organization that they must keep their heads down in fear and hope they are allowed to remain as FCM management is in the process of purging good employees while hiring more people they can trust to sing in the chorus of we are all better now. Singing in chorus will not change the facts that while claiming financial hardship FCM is authorizing and arguing on behalf of contractors to needlessly spend precious capital funds with no one holding them accountable.

Because the meeting is tomorrow and there is no time for discussion prior to the meeting I am copying the Superintendent and the Board on this issue so they are aware.          

Michael J Marchetti
Physical Plant Operations
Zone 2, Supervisor I

(I've deleted the email addresses and phone numbers that appeared above -except one.) 


In a related matter, who the hell in the Broward School system specifically told members of the Diversity Committee NOT to speak publicly to the news media about what they'd seen and what they knew? 
That person or group of people need to be publicly identified and fired -today!

And seriously, would it kill the local Miami TV stations and newspapers to get off their asses and actually try to find out why administrators feel there's a need for a system of omertà among community volunteers who are, alternately, getting stabbed in the back or getting the shaft from elected officials?

Some of the longstanding personal animus against Murray and which is starting to develop against Supt.  Runcie in this community is directly attributable to the way the Diversity Comm. has been handled and the general state of things at Hallandale High School, though in my case, it doesn't happen to be the only reason to be against Murray.
That's a much longer fact-filled bill of particulars!

-----


South Florida Sun-Sentinel
FDLE: Contractor allegedly billed school system for Hummer repairs, Disney trip
Records shed new light on district dealings
By Megan O'Matz, Sun Sentinel
October 13, 2012

More than 250 pages of newly released interviews taken in the state's now-closed corruption probe of Broward Schools contain fresh allegations of a contactor padding bills, employees moonlighting on the job and managers shirking their duties.

Among the jolting assertions in the documents obtained by the Sun Sentinel are the reported actions of an executive of The Weitz Company, a construction firm that did considerable business with the school district.

Joanne M. Lenz, a former Weitz employee, told Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents that her boss, Rick Kolb, had billed the school district about $5,000 for personal expenses, including repairs on his Hummer and a family trip to Disney World. The costs were hidden in invoices submitted to the district for new elementary school cafeterias that Weitz built, Lenz told FDLE under oath in June 2011.

She also told the investigators that in 2008 Kolb helped arrange for a golf tournament to benefit the Broward Education Foundation, a School Board entity that awards scholarships. Kolb recruited subcontractors he did business with to participate at a minimum cost of $2,500 for four players, she said.
When the subcontractors later were awarded school district jobs through the Weitz firm, Kolb added the golf tournament entry fees to the bills submitted to the district and then reimbursed the firms, Lenz said.

"The way the School Board was treated was unfair," Lenz, now a data processor at a Broward school, told the Sun Sentinel Friday.

Kolb was not charged with any crime. He could not be reached for comment Friday through his current employer, Suffolk Construction in West Palm Beach. The FDLE documents do not indicate whether Kolb was asked to give his side of the story.

Weitz's senior vice president of Florida operations, Jon Tori, declined comment Friday, saying he was unaware of the allegations made to FDLE.

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, who took over the district last year after the investigation ended, said Friday he is working to eradicate mismanagement, corruption and fraud.

"The game's over," he told the Sun Sentinel. "There's a new sheriff in town. We're going to make sure we operate with integrity and that we focus our efforts on doing what's in the best interest of children. Always."

Among his priorities, Runcie said, is hiring additional internal auditors to ferret out waste and abuse.

The documents obtained by the Sun Sentinel are summaries of interviews FDLE conducted on behalf of a Statewide Grand Jury impaneled in February 2010 at the request of then-Gov. Charlie Crist to investigate public corruption.

The Grand Jury did not indict anyone but released a scathing report in February 2011 saying the Broward School District was so grossly mismanaged it could not be explained by incompetence alone but must involve "corruption of our officials by contractors, vendors and their lobbyists."

From the spring of 2010 through most of 2011, school employees, board members, and vendors were invited or subpoenaed to talk to FDLE.

Much of what the individuals told investigators has been widely reported: that the district was a place where contractors were paid in full despite not finishing jobs, safety inspections were compromised, shoddy workmanship was ignored, board members interfered in day-to-day operations and cronyism drove decisions.

But the fresh crop of documents from FDLE provides new insights into district practices and relationships. Often the information provided to state investigators dealt with the alleged misdeeds, large and small, of School District personnel.

Among the assertions: one district employee was selling hurricane shutters on school district time. Another: real estate.

One employee testified that his job included shuttling School Board members to and from the airport and escorting district "guests" around town.

Another described how a school roofing job, botched by one contractor, was given to another, which was found to be a paving company -- not a roofer.

In the process, the paving company hired an engineer, who hired a lobbyist: the husband of former Broward Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin, according to FDLE's report.

In the midst of the Grand Jury investigation, a secretary in the district's construction department reportedly was seen shredding documents.

Many of the interviews focused on the district's Building Department, which inspects school construction to ensure that the work is done properly and according to safety codes.

Employees described how at times district inspectors were furloughed and private companies hired to do their jobs at additional taxpayer expense.

Because of union rules, certified inspectors were laid off and replaced with uncertified staff with more seniority, FDLE learned.

One of the lesser trained individuals told investigators he inspected fire dampers at a job site while the certified inspector "remained in the car."

Another trainee said after about two weeks of instruction, he was sent out to perform 50 to 70 inspections despite being unlicensed. His supervisor signed the reports, he told FDLE.

Investigators looked closely at relationships some School Board members had with lobbyists and vendors.

A former construction project manager, Sharon Zamojski, told FDLE she attended a political fundraiser at one lobbyist's home, where contractors doing business with the school district each donated the $500 maximum allowed by law.

Contractors at the event then telephoned subcontractors instructing them to show up and also make a contribution, FDLE quoted Zamojski saying. Subcontractors "began to arrive and as they were met at the front door, they delivered their contributions in the form of checks in the amount of $500," the documents state.

The documents also include new claims about the actions of School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb, who abruptly resigned in August 2011.

For example: Gottlieb allegedly did not like the color the newly constructed Beachside Montessori School in Hollywood had been painted and ordered it redone, at an additional cost of $1,500.

In an email to the Sun Sentinel on Friday, Gottlieb said: "I don't remember making any request for the color of the school, maybe someone misconstrued my comments about the colors."

FDLE also was told of the chummy relationship some School Board members, Gottlieb included, reportedly had with Kolb, the Weitz executive.

Lenz said under oath that Kolb regularly took board members to lunch. In one case, she said, Kolb and Gottlieb had a five-hour, $400 lunch at Le Meridien, then a resort in Sunny Isles Beach. She said Kolb was reimbursed by their company for the lunch.

Elected officials cannot accept gifts of over $100. Gift disclosure forms filed by Gottlieb do not reflect any lunches.

Gottlieb told the Sun Sentinel Friday: "I have no recollection of a $400 lunch, but I have no idea what he may have expensed. It was my standard practice to pay cash for what I ate."

In May 2010, district auditors reported that taxpayers overpaid $47 million for 15 cafeteria projects because School Board members added unnecessary playgrounds, bus loops and other items to the deals and doled out the projects to favored firms, Weitz among them, rather than award the contracts based on the lowest bid.

I made the last paragraph bold so it would be sure to catch your attention, since if anyone needed a contemporaneous snapshot of this dysfunctional school system, that's it!

-----

City of Hollywood residents and members of the community are invited to meet Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at the Boulevard Heights Community Center, 6770 Garfield St. in Hollywood. Mr. Runcie will be available to answer questions from the public about local public schools and other education issues. Members of the public who are interested in attending and asking Mr. Runcie a question are encouraged to arrive early to fill out a question card. 
Light refreshments will be provided. 
For more information, contact Donna Green at hollyed1@aol.com.

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For Sale

Hallandale Beach Blog is where I try to inject or superimpose a degree of accountability, transparency and insight onto Florida and local Broward County government and public policy issues, which I feel is sorely lacking in local media now. On this blog, locally, I concentrate my energy, enthusiasm, anger and laser-like attention on the coastal cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Aventura.

If you lived in this part of South Florida, you'd ALREADY be stuck in stultifying traffic, paying higher-than-necessary taxes and continually musing about the chronic lack of accountability among not only elected govt. officials, but also of city, county and state employees as well. Collectively, with a few rare exceptions, they couldn't be farther from the sort of strong results-oriented, eager work-ethic mentality that local residents deserve and expect. But seldom if ever see...

This is particularly true in the Broward County city I live in, the City of Hallandale Beach, north of Aventura and south of Hollywood and right on the Atlantic Ocean. Here, the "Perfect Storm" of years of apathy, incompetency and cronyism are all too readily apparent. Sadly for its beleaguered residents, HB is where even easily-solved, quality-of-life problems are left to fester for YEARS on end, because of myopia, lack of common sense and ineffective supervisory management. It's a city with tremendous potential because of its terrific location and well-educated populace, yet its citizens have almost become numb to HB City Hall's frequent outrages and screw-ups, the result of YEARS of the worst kind of mismanagement and lack of foresight. On a daily basis, residents and Small Business owners wake up and see the same old problems that have never being adequately resolved by the city in a logical and responsible fashion, merely kicked -once again- further down the road for others to solve in the future.

I used to ask myself, not always rhetorically, "Where are all the enterprising young reporters who want to show that through their own hard work and enterprise, what REAL investigative reporting can produce?" Hearing no response, I decided to start a blog of my own that could try to do some of these things, taking the p.o.v. of a reasonable-but-skeptical person seeing the situation for the first time with fresh eyes, and wanting questions answered in a honest and logical way that citizens have the right to expect.

Hallandale Beach Blog intends to be a catalyst for positive change in public policy and goivernment engagement. If there's one constant gripe in South Florida, regardless of your age, race, nationality or political persuasion, it's about the fundamental lack of PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY of Florida's state, regional and local govt./agency officials, elected and otherwise. Hallandale Beach Blog aims to be a small step towards regaining some of that needed accountability, whether it's thru shining some well-needed public scrutiny on the issue or pol, or requires a higher degree of follow-up investigation and public exposure of the incompetency, cronyism or negligence -South Florida's usual governing style.
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Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard)

Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard)
Singer/songwriter Full of Keys (Anni Bernhard) wearing the teal-colored Miami Dolphins cap I gave her in January 2013 (in Stockholm) while recording her 2nd album, "The Grazing Grounds" at Sandkvie Studios in Visby, Gotland, Sweden. Also pictured here are sound engineer and co-producer Linus Larsson and musician/DJ/co-producer Mats Jönsson, April 12, 2013.Click the photo to see her videos, read my blog posts and Tweets about her and learn more about this dynamic and original talent with personality to spare!

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers
Before I was a Hoosier, I was an NMB Charger, Class of 1979.

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation
"In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation." -South Beach Hoosier, 2007.