A Florida grand jury, assembled after a 2018 school massacre, has recommended that state governor Ron DeSantis remove four members of the Broward County school board from office, alleging she and the district administrators “deceive, misdemeanor, misdemeanor, dereliction of duty and incompetence”. in their handling of a campus safety program.
In the 122-page report released Friday, the panel recommended that DeSantis suspend board members Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray and Laurie Rich Levinson. A former member, Rosalind Osgood, was also targeted, but she has since been elected to the Florida Senate and has taken office.
Levinson, the chairman of the board, angrily denounced the report as a “political battle axe” orchestrated by the governor, which many view as a potential Republican candidate for president in the 2024 election.
“It’s dirty party politics,” Levinson said. “He should be ashamed of himself.”
The grand jury began meeting 15 months after 14 students and three staff members were gunned down on February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a Broward County suburb of Parkland.
The gunman, Nikolas Cruz, pleaded guilty in October and is now on trial to decide whether he will be sentenced to death or life without parole.
Former Broward public school principal Robert Runcie resigned last year after being charged with allegedly lying to the grand jury. He pleads innocent and awaits his trial.
The district is the sixth largest district in the country, with more than 270,000 students on 333 campuses and an annual budget of $4 billion.
The school board has nine members, including two, Debra Hixon and Lori Alhadeff, who were elected after Hixon’s husband, Chris, and Alhadeff’s daughter, Alyssa, were killed in the Stoneman Douglas shooting. They ran on platforms that promoted better campus security.
Alhadeff, in particular, often disagreed with the targeted members, especially about Runcie’s conduct before his resignation.
Stand with Parkland, the group representing most of the victims’ families, released a statement applauding the report, saying it “proves what we already suspected – acts of incompetence, negligence and cover-up and a school board (that) unwilling is facing the facts.” The group’s chairman, Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the attack, called on DeSantis to remove the four members from the board.
The grand jury said the “uninformed or even misinformed decisions, incompetent management and lack of meaningful oversight” of Runcie and the accused board members led to massive cost overruns and delays in a school safety and education program launched in 2014 by provincial governments. voters was approved. report says the $1 billion program due to be completed in 2021 is now expected to cost $1.5 billion when completed in 2025 – the jury estimates “wishcasting”.
“This doubling of time and nearly a 50 percent increase in costs did not happen overnight,” the grand jury wrote. “It was a slow-cooking frog that was the result of years of mismanagement by multiple (district) officials.”