By Kevin Deutsch
A state grand jury impaneled in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High issued a scathing report Friday, accusing five current and former Broward School Board members of “fraud and deceit” and recommending Gov. Ron DeSantis remove four of them from office.
The grand jury accused the elected board members—Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Laurie Rich Levinson, and Ann Murray—along with former school board member Rosalind Osgood, now a Florida state senator, of “deceit, malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty and incompetence.”
The grand jury recommended DeSantis remove the four women still on the school board from office. It was not clear Friday whether DeSantis intended to act on their recommendation.
DeSantis petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to impanel the grand jury, which began its work in 2019.
The grand jury’s members have spent the past three years probing the Valentine’s Day 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people and wounded 17 others, as well as other issues pertaining to the management of Broward schools.
The same grand jury previously indicted former Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie on perjury charges in April 2021. The school board members criticized in Friday’s report had all lent their support to Runcie, who left office in August 2021.
“It should be obvious that …. attempts to hold the Superintendent and his District staff accountable have been routinely and openly thwarted by the majority of the Board, the very same majority we seek to remove from office,” the grand jury report states.
The grand jury accused Runcie and the school board of using “fraud and deceit” to bungle the execution of an $800 million bond referendum. The board mismanaged taxpayer money and failed to renovate unsafe schools, forcing students to learn “in decrepit, moldy, unsafe buildings,” the report states.
On the safety issue at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the grand jury criticized the school district for failing to install an upgraded fire alarm.
The alarm upgrade was deemed a “top-priority item” in the district’s 2014 SMART bond project, but it was not installed prior to the 2018 mass shooting.
“While we do not have any evidence to outright declare that the combination of inaccurate data reporting, antipathy toward law enforcement, facile falsehoods by administration officials, or the astonishing mismanagement of SMART safety projects led directly to the MSD tragedy, neither can we say they played no role in creating the darkness in which this malignancy grew,” the grand jury report states. “It is readily apparent that the toxic combination of these factors has, and continues to, put Broward County students at risk.”
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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