Four members of the Broward County School Board in Florida have been suspended by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for "a pattern of emboldening unacceptable behavior, including fraud and mismanagement."
Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray and Laurie Rich Levinson have all been suspended from the board, effective immediately. DeSantis has appointed Torey Alston, Manual "Nandy" A. Serrano, Ryan Reiter, and Kevin Tynan as interim members in their stead.
"It is my duty to suspend people from office when there is clear evidence of incompetence, neglect of duty, misfeasance or malfeasance," DeSantis said in a statement. "This action is in the best interest of the residents and students of Broward County and all citizens of Florida."
DeSantis suspended the members at the behest of a grand jury which had been impaneled by the state supreme court after the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, back in February 2018. The job of the grand jury was to determine whether there had been any instances of fraud or mismanagement that may have caused lapses in security and safety in area schools.
The grand jury found that school safety had supposedly been "such a low priority" for the suspended board members that an alarm which some have suggested could have saved lives at MSD "remains uninstalled at multiple schools."
The grand jury report further claimed that "students continue to be educated in unsafe, aging, decrepit, moldy buildings that were supposed to have been renovated years ago."
The grand jury even claimed that the suspended board members routinely neglected their duties in favor of building their brands.
"Broward County has provided a cornucopia of examples of an almost fanatical desire to control data and use it to manipulate public perception, including that surrounding safety," the grand jury report states. The suspended members "are seemingly obsessed with the optics of any situation and control of public impressions of their activities."
However, critics of the grand jury claim that its report focuses mainly on the SMART Program, a public safety measure approved by voters in 2014 intended to improve campus safety. The report discusses the ballooning costs of the program and some questionable decisions made by the accused board members, as well as former superintendent Robert Runcie. The grand jury's myopic fixation on the SMART Program, critics say, was time and energy diverted from the original mission of the grand jury, which was to examine the events and the district's decisions leading up to the MSD shooting.
"It is disgusting that on the backs of these families to have a bait-and-switch grand jury,” said Levinson, one of the suspended board members. “The majority of the report has nothing to do with Marjory Stoneman Douglas."
Levinson is term-limited and therefore cannot seek re-election. However, fellow suspended board member Korn is in the midst of a run-off campaign for re-election, and she said in a statement last week, "[W]hile I respect the grand jury process, I stand on my record."
The grand jury also pointed a finger at former board member Rosalind Osgood and would likely have recommended her suspension, except she is no longer a board member.
Former superintendent Runcie resigned last year after he was indicted for allegedly lying to the grand jury. He has pled not guilty, though it is unclear when his trial will be held.