Update: School Board’s New Bad Deal

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

The Broward School Board has done it again: Allowed the same ol’ back room dealing and bad business practices that have plagued the schools for so long.

Here is the story:

Board members want voters to approve several hundred million dollars in new bonds as early as next year.

So in another move designed to win voters support, the School Board privatized a huge piece of the facilities department last week.

Privatization was supposed to look like the Board was finally cleaning house in the facilities division, which was criticized by a recent statewide Grand Jury for inefficiency and mismanagement.

Maybe the Board is ready to be trusted with several $100 million of new bond money.

Not so fast!

The deal isn’t what it seems.

First of all, the private company to replace the 40 fired workers has already been picked. Quietly.  Out of the sunshine.

URS, an international firm that already has a similar contract to manage Orange County, Florida’s school contruction, has the contract in the bag.  Board members were told this publicly last week.

Wait a minute.

Were competitive proposals from other firms taken?  No.

Does anybody know what URS will charge?

“I don’t know the cost yet,” conceded Shelley Meloni, director of school construction.

Does anybody at the School Board remember URS’s problems at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport?

Apparently not.

URS oversaw the airport ‘s expansion from 1995 to 2007.  Its contract climbed from $4.9 million in 2002 to $67 million in  2007.

The contract was amended eight times without new bids and the firm was hammered by a series of audits that alleged they mismanaged their job by failing to properly monitor contractors.  According to my pal Scott Wyman, writing in the Sun-Sentinel:

“URS said it fixed the problems and assembled a team of high-powered lobbyists to press commissioners for a new deal.”

Commissioners didn’t bite.  They gave the airport management to another firm in 2008.

And that’s the firm the School Board wants to hand a no-bid contract?

Once again, Board members Nora Rupert and Patti Good were the voices of reason. They were the only votes against this flim flam, which passed 7-2.

Both complained that they were being asked to vote on something without knowing the eventual cost.

Sound familiar?

Rupert also noted that the underlings were being dumped while the higher ups were keeping their jobs.

“If you are unhappy with the team, you don’t get rid of the third string quarterback,” Rupert said.

A greased contract to a firm that already had problems at the airport.  Plunging ahead without knowing the price tag.  Firing the little guys, while leaving the big guys in place.

Doesn’t sound like a group I want to trust with millions more.

Does it to you?

 



21 Responses to “Update: School Board’s New Bad Deal”

  1. Nick Steffens says:

    We are fortunate to have School Board members like Patti and Nora who consistently look out for the taxpayers and students. It is unfortunate that the rest of the School Board is permitting our school system to become a dictatorship.

  2. Freedom says:

    I am so proud of Patti Good and Nora Rupert. I really feel like we have board members looking out for the public’s interest. Someone has to be the voice of reason. Asking questions is how we get to answers and protect the public.

  3. Construction Forman says:

    Gimme a break! Nora looks out for the public? Rupert just pocketed 4 fat donations from the Forman family. ya, the Forman family that runs charter schools. The Forman family that has been funding local cronies for decades. Wake the F Up Nick Steffans

  4. Anonomyte says:

    Funny, I read the Herald and Sun-Sentinel every day. This is the first I’ve read about the company being picked to run this show. And it is already voted on and a done deal? Lack of public transparency is an understatement.

  5. Same Old Same Old says:

    Well, this proves you can change the Superintendent, you can add new Board members, but the same old stuff keeps happening.

    How is that possible???

    Oh, I know, because, with the exception of Patti and Nora, we the dumb voters keep electing SB members who just blindly go along with what the Superintendent suggests.

    I thought Abby was going to challenge all these types of deals? It appears that the majority of voters in District 4 elected the wrong candidate.

  6. Jeanne says:

    It is a bad deal or was it premature given the facts seem to indicate that the idea was presented minus a price tag. I am happy that both Mrs. Good and Mrs. Rupert voted no, because of the lack of information. Have to wonder why the other Board members didn’t do the same.

  7. Becky Blackwood says:

    In 1996, when I was hired as a project manager (after the 1985 bond), there were only 13 project managers and 13 construction manager/inspectors. The reorganization of the Facilities Department at that time was a result of the poor quality of construction and overpayments identified in the 1995 Grand Jury report. All of the project managers, construction managers/inspectors were terminated and had to reapply for their positions. I was one of three project managers hired to replace only 3 of the existing 13 project managers. A separate inspection division was created with a separate construction management division. Until the early 2000′s, these 13 inspectors were responsible for all of the construction, including maintenance. The increase in the number of inspectors was approved by the Board in 1998 after data was presented to indicate the number of inspections that would be required for the projected increase in construction. In 1997, the number of inspections performed were 354 per month and they increased to more than 2000 per month after required building codes were identified and enforced. The construction management division, which was less than 10, was discontinued after Tom Calhoun was hired as the Associate Superintendent by Dr. Till. The increase in the number of project managers began with the increase in construction projects, as much as $1.4 billion for 3 years in the early 2000′s.

    The union contract was modified in the middle 2000′s to include the bumping clause. Most of the job descriptions allowed individuals who did not have licenses to be transferred into jobs for which they had never performed, did not have experience and did not have licenses. Chief Building Official Lee Martin, before his resignation in 2004, revised the inspectors job description that allowed individuals to receive a State of Florida Provisional Inspectors license, allowing them 3-5 years to take an exam and pass it to receive the required license, even though they had never held a position as an inspector. The individuals they replaced had at least 8-10 years experience as inspectors and had State of Florida certified licenses, except for Board Chairman Ben Williams’ niece who was never able to pass the state license but was grandfathered in 2001 as a Provisional inspector with the adoption of the Florida Building Code for educational facilities.

    As Superintendent Runcie has stated state funding has virtually stopped construction of new facilities.

    Remember there was a Grand Jury report in 1995 which recommended reorganization and hiring of new personnel. The individuals who interviewed the applicants were the same Associate Superintendent of Faciltiies (criticized in that Grand Jury and later resigned) and one of the project managers identified in two later Grand Juries, who just retired. Most of today’s same project managers (10) were rehired in 1996 as well as many of the same construction managers/inspectors but separated into 2 divisions.

    New criteria must be required of the remaining project managers – participation in the project’s design, training in code compliance and project management, construction scheduling training and enforcement, modification of the Professional of Record’s contract to include a definitive number of days schedule for completion of the design and correction of mandatory review comments, a revised evaluation form specifically for technical employees (not teacher’s evaluations); prepared by an objective evaluator, not the person being evaluated and then signed by their supervisor.

    A separate auditor should also be hired to monitor the performance of the Construction Management firm awarded the contract.

    This sounds as if there is a piggy back contract Runcie is looking at and that is why this contract is not being put out for bid. The amount of the contract may be based on a percentage of the construction projects, rather than an hourly amount. The District must also insure that the Construction Management firm’s assigned personnel has the number of years of experience in education facilities, design and construction necessary to improve the quality and code compliance of the construction. Evaluations must also be performed on all companies and firms involved in design and construction. The building department should be allowed to evaluate the performance of the contractors as to their number of failed inspections, correction of inspections and length of time to correct inspections. They are the only consistent presence in the field representing the District. The building department must be provided with a computerized scheduling system that prevents inspections from being performed when an inspection has failed, until that inspection is corrected and approved.

  8. Chaz Stevens, Militant Atheist says:

    Becky;

    Thank goodness my monitor doesn’t use ink — every time you write something, it goes on and on and on and on.

    Reminding me of something Twain once said, “I wanted to write you a short note, but didn’t have the time, so I wrote you a long letter instead.”

  9. Mia says:

    Keep it up Nora and Patti! Eventually the rest of the Board may see the light!

  10. WTFBD says:

    To bring credibility to the SBBC the following Senior Managers need to go:

    Jeff Moquin -Chief of Staff

    Ben Leon – CFO

    Shelley Meloni Chief Facilities/Construction

    Omar Shim – Director, Capital Budget

    Sam Bays – Director, PPO

    Sonya Coley – Senior Project Manager, Construction

    Mr. Runcie a breath of fresh air/respectability/a clean sweep is needed on the SBBC operations side.

  11. just wondering says:

    well they’ll never get a construction bond out of broward taxpayers so they’ll be doing more with less

    ONLY the Miami Herald reported URS
    >Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/21/v-print/3409528/broward-school-board-votes-to.html#storylink=cpy

    “….the day-to-day monitoring of construction projects will largely be outsourced. District leaders say they haven’t yet settled on what company will be hired for that task, but they are strongly considering San Francisco-based URS, a large global firm that performs similar work for the Orange County school district in Orlando.
    >Though hiring an outside company is expected to cost millions, Runcie says the layoffs will save about $4.1 million in payroll, which should more than cover the expense of outsourcing, Runcie said…..”

    So Ms. Blackwood’s history of bcs facilities dept. incompetence was prolonged and proffered by many who were placating big wigs, higher ups, etc. Its clear that many were not qualified or certified to be in their positions and paygrades, in spite of ON THE JOB TRAINING. I recall UBCI certification was required under SREF 6A-2, with a few days of classes and then an examination to be certified. Clearly circumvented. There was NO grandfathering in so anyone who signed off was committing fraud, perjury or both.
    what I would like to know is how newly minted architect Claudia Munroe became head executive of the department when she got her first and only license in August 1998?

  12. sidelines says:

    @WTFBD
    Did you leave someone out?

    Divine Amoah gets to stay! He is going to be busy with a construction company and a roofing company and 7 state licenses to qualify them
    All while working full time at bcs? Do the other employees all have side jobs? Doesn’t look like it

    https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp?mode=2&search=Name&SID=&brd=&typ=

  13. Becky Blackwood says:

    To Chaz:

    Did you learn anything from the info that you didn’t already know? Or did you even read it? No harm no foul.

  14. steve s says:

    SBBC needs a flack to explain why these moves are in the public interest.

  15. Simple Man says:

    This is just a case of history repeating itself. We have a corrupt or incompetent board (probably both) failing to do its due diligence because of naïveté or a hidden agenda (probably both) and an incompetent, unprofessional, and corrupted management team presenting a totally unsubstantiated proposal without supporting documentation except for the lies and misinformation put out by existing managers motivated by self preservation. In the private sector this kind of action without documentation would bring a shareholder lawsuit for malfeasance. I would like to gear what Board member Leech thinks Shelley has been doing for the last 10 years to earn her paycheck? For Leech and the other Bms to swallow the story from Shelley that she was never in charge just shows them to be either the unprofessional unprepared bimbos they sound like on the dais or they are the corrupt partners to a lobbyist driven hidden agenda just like past boards. Either way, there is no excuse and there will be an accounting.

  16. tell the truth says:

    @Simple Man – well said
    SBBC members and/or staff, including Mr. Runcie read BrowardBeat in spite of any denial on the record, so they will know that some of us see whats going on at headquarters.
    Sounds like they need an RFP to go out on the street for any and all program managers to apply with qualifications per CCNA. If a sole source and preferential treatment is given URS just because they do Orlando, the outcry and backlash will be harsh.
    Regardless of who gets the Program Manager contract, you’ll see ads for licensed PE’s and RA’s everywhere because URS right now does NOT have any of those people on staff and employed now in Florida.
    Thats how its done – get the contract then look for warm bodies

  17. RandyFtL says:

    The privatization was a scam. Everyone brought up the grand jury results. The grand jury never attacked the staff of facilities, they criticized the board members influence on the department. What does privatization do? It gives them more power and authority, they are the ones approving the contracts, they are the one receiving contributions and jobs for political friends. Murray went from pro-union to show me the money.

    At least four of these folk have their eye on bigger jobs; one’s main job is corralling more support for her mother’s laughable campaign for govenor. Check how she funnels money to Cypress Bay, AP is mayor of lucrative Sunshine Ranches.

  18. Zorro says:

    Shelley Meloni has been officially running the show since the other jackass got removed. But do not forget that she was making big time poor decisions prior to that and pissing away tax payer dollars for many year. She needs to get fired ASAP.

  19. Unhappy Laidoff PM says:

    Watching this drama for last few weeks and reading all of these nice comments.

    The district already had more useless and worthless personnel than they could afford. A vast majority of high school degree holders were stealing money through their salary. Runcie added more to it by adding more high paying positions and bringing his useless friends and buddies from outside.

    Such as Chief Technology Officer, Executive Director Continuous Improvement, Chief Strategy and Operations, Ex-Transportation Director, and many more.

    Plus he compounded the cronyism more by giving another long time worthless person (Mike Marchetti)another high paying position.

    In the meantime he is cutting us to get bond??

  20. Simple Man says:

    Long before Lindner resigned (got fired) when Garretson was running the ship (into the ground), Shelley, was put into a position by her benefactor (convicted felon BG) where Shelley (lobbyists) made decisions on construction delivery methods. All the juicy projects were made into TPMs and CM@Risk (welfare for the rich). Shelley also organized QSEC, qualifications selection committee, the vehicle whereby the consultants and contractors (lobbyist’s clients) were chosen for the juicy projects. QSEC was set up to ensure that the selection process was informed by the Board Members (bid rigging and price fixing) and was expressly done this way to benefit the kids (of contractors, consultants, lobbyists, and Board Members) Through all this the one constant presence was Shelley Meloni. The old board is gone. Beverly went to prison, Kraft is awaiting trial (Satz sits), Jenn left in a cloud of lingerie and sexual innuendo, Parks chose not to run (not because of research into campaign financing that showed 90% of his funding came from outside his district and was from people doing business before the board) but Ann Murray remains. She is skillful and tough as nails as evidenced by the crafty way she explained her support for Shelley and this abominable plan. The old cow wove a sweet story about fixing the ongoing problems at Facilities, instead of explaining how she was rewarding Shelley for all Shelley did for her constituents (Royal Concrete). Considering all Royal Concrete did for Ms. Murray’s campaign by hosting a fundraiser for her and her constituents (themselves) at their plant in West Palm Beach, it is no surprise that she threw her support strongly behind Shelley. It speaks well of Ms. Murray’s loyalty and commitment to her constituents (Royal Concrete) and the kids (of employees of Royal Palm Concrete). The bottom line here can be summed up like this. New Board, new Supe, same old Broward way (lobbyist driven)

  21. no kiddin' says:

    If Runcie doesn’t clean house completely, nothing will change in Facilities and the virus of corruption and fraud will continue. And if he does not get rid of all of them, he will be updating his resume before the next election of SBBC members.
    Cats out of the bag, genie is out of the bottle thanks to getting all this out.

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