- Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced the suspension of four members of the Broward County School Board
- The suspensions come following the recommendation to do so by a Statewide Grand Jury. In its report, the Jury found the four members guilty of misconduct, incompetence, and negligence of duty, among others
- Shortly after the suspensions went into effect, DeSantis appointed four replacement members to the School Board
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday suspended Broward School Board members Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray, and Laurie Rich Levinson from office following the recommendations of the Twentieth Statewide Grand Jury.
After deliberation, the panel of jurors concluded that district officials and the four members of the school board had acted with “deceit, misconduct, misfeasance, negligence of duty, and incompetence.”
The 122-page report made public last Friday also named former school board chair Rosalind Osgood, a state senator, who left the school board to seek public office.
Osgood, who is no longer working as a school board member, is therefore not subject to the Governor’s executive suspension authority.
“It is my duty to suspend people from office when there is clear evidence of incompetence, neglect of duty, misfeasance, or malfeasance,” said DeSantis. “The findings of the Statewide Grand Jury affirm the work of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Commission. We are grateful to the members of the jury who have dedicated countless hours to this mission and we hope this suspension brings the Parkland community another step towards justice. This action is in the best interest of the residents and students of Broward County and all citizens of Florida.”
According to the report, the jury’s investigation was directed by a mandate from the Florida Supreme Court. Passed on February 25, 2019, the mandate ordered the examination of four primary allegations against the school board members, administration staff, and public officials including:
- Whether refusal or failure to follow the mandates of school-related safety laws resulted in unnecessary and avoidable risk,
- If public figures committed — and continue to commit — fraud through the acceptance of state funds intended to be used on school safety measures while failing to act.
- Whether school officials committed fraud by mismanaging or diverting funds intended for school safety initiatives
- If school officials violated state law by systematically underreporting incidents of criminal activity to the state Department of Education.
In its final report, the statewide grand jury found that these board members mismanaged the SMART Program, a multimillion-dollar bond specifically solicited for school safety and renovation initiatives. I
n addition, the Jury found that the Board was aware of serious problems with the SMART Program, including former Superintendent Robert Runcie’s inability or unwillingness to manage those problems, yet did not take action.
The same Grand Jury last year recommended the removal of Runcie, who was indicted on charges of perjury. Following the recommendation, Runcie offered his resignation, stating that he did so to provide “peace” to survivors of the shooting.
Shortly after the announcement of the suspensions, DeSantis appointed four replacement school board members including Torey Alston, former Commissioner of the Broward County Board of County Commissioners, Manual “Nandy” A. Serrano, member of the Florida Sports Foundation Board of Directors, Ryan Reiter, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and Director of Government Relations for Kaufman Lynn Construction, and Kevin Tynan, Attorney with Richardson and Tynan, who previously served on the Broward County School Board and South Broward Hospital District.
According to CBS Miami, Levinson believes that the report was meant to confuse voters on whether or not they should vote on a tax increase that is stated to help retain teachers and fund school security. The grand jury, empaneled by DeSantis, however, overviewed multiple instances in which the Broward County School District drastically misused funds.
“I want them to know this is nasty, partisan politics,” said Levinson on a local news appearance. “This Grand Jury is a political tool weaponized against Broward Democrats. The Superintendent was not enough, and they went after all the board members who supported the Superintendent.”