Update: Schools Shocker! Construction Chief Fired

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

In a move designed to shake up the status quo in the Broward school system, Superintendent Robert Runcie  fired his construction chief Friday for failing to institute changes recommended by a critical Grand Jury.

Runcie charged  construction and facilities boss Thomas Lindner with “inefficiency (incompetence), insubordination and/or willful neglect of his duties.”

Lindner is the first high-ranking administrator that any superintendent sought to fire in recent memory.

 

Thomas Lindner

In the wake of a highly critical statewide Grand Jury report on the Broward schools alleging widespread mismanagement and corruption, Runcie was hired in late 2011 with orders to change the system.

He waited, observed and gathered evidence over the past year.

On Monday the School Board was told that problems were continuing in school construction.  An accounting firm hired in June surveyed construction projects at Parkway Middle in Lauderhill and Walker Elementary in Fort Lauderdale. The auditors found the district overpaid by $1.4 million for failing to adopt the best industry practices.

Board members were angry.

Member Donna Korn was quoted in the Sun-Sentinel as saying she was hoping for a “shake up…There were a lot of things wrong in this department, and we’re not treating it at that way. I’m not happy,”

Lindner failed to attend the Monday Board meeting, which surprised some members.

On Wednesday, the Sun-Sentinel quoted Runcie foreshadowing Lindner’s firing:

“I’m reviewing the mangement and leadership there, and I’ll made a decision whether an adjustment is needed or not. I’ll be doing that very shortly. The bottom line is we’ve got to restore the public’s trust and confidence and the credibility of our facilities department.”

 On Friday, Runcie pounced

Lindner was one of three big changes in the front office.

Gracie Diaz,  who held the key position as chief human resources officer,  was shuffled off and will now be the relatively obscure director of the Teacher Incentive Fund.

Chief Portfolio Services Officer Joanne Harrison resigned.  The hiring of  Harrison two months after she retired in 2009 was criticized by the teachers’ union, who noted she was receiving a $135,000-a-year salary and her pension while employee layoffs were being considered.

But it is the fate of Lindner, the administrator who heads the much-criticized school building and maintenance program, that rocked the glass-and-marble School Board headquarters this weekend. The department has an immense budget — roughly a half billion dollars a year.

The formal complaint against the veteran bureaucrat reads like an indictment.

Lindner “failed to perform duties prescribed by law,” states the five-page  administrative complaint hand delivered to Board members late Friday.

One of the charges: He remodeled the chief building inspector’s office without permission.

Another charge: He failed to develop new language for contracts, leaving the school system open to “liability and increased costs”.

A third charge: Lindner was “unable or unwilling to improve and integrate new technology.”

The complaint also alleges that many of the county’s construction projects remain behind schedule and that “the overall management of the Facilities and Construction Department is lacking under Mr. Lindner’s supervision.”

One Board member said Lindner was given a chance to resign and refused.

The School Board will be asked on Tuesday to approve of  Runcie’s actions. Although Lindner has some political clout — his wife Donna Lindner is the long time senior government relations representative for J.M. Family Enterprises, .i.e., lobbyist — it is expected the Board will support Runcie.

If the Board agrees to uphold Lindner’s firing, he can appeal to a state administrative judge within 30 days.

 



55 Responses to “Update: Schools Shocker! Construction Chief Fired”

  1. School Board Watcher says:

    This is a big step in the right direction for Mr. Runcie.

  2. Laser vs. Tornado says:

    Lindner should have gone a long time ago. He was obviously one of the main roots of the problem back in the Jim Notter era.

    Runcie started out with an unfortunate tendency to act like a tornado, distributing only chaos and dysfunction. This Linder move looks more like a laser-focused medical intervention.

    Stay focused, Mr Runcie!

  3. Finally! says:

    The rest of the administration must be shaking in their boots today. Congratulations to the superintendent.

  4. Honesty, Pride & Integrity says:

    Finally….a Superintendent who is willing to do what is necessary to restore honesty, pride & integrity to our community. Thank you Mr. Runcie for your intelligent, factual, leadership!

  5. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    It’s a great beginning,and there’s more to come. It’s going to take a while and dedicated efforts to get the prevailing culture to change.

    For far too long,board members, competent administrators, staffers as well as volunteers have been subjected to unprofessional attitudes and what can only be described as screaming tantrums. Enough is enough.

    It’s important that all of the good, honest activists continue to congratulate Mr. Runcie as necessary changes occur.

    And keep communicating with the board members, especially if, as I suspect, pressure is forthcoming from those who don’t like the changes.

  6. Panda Bear says:

    Hats off to Runcie! Good move! Now, I hope he doens’t stop here. He must keep leaping forward and take a close look at each of the departments. I know there are many more Linders out there. First of all, there are 74 departments at the Board. Are you kidding me? I don’t think the United Nations has that many! That’s 74 six-figure salaries right there and each of these department heads have assistants and secretaries. Most of these salaries are wasted to lazy people…I know that sounds awful, but it is true. Runcie should study each department carefully and analyze whether it’s truly needed and/or whether some department responsibilities could be combined and trim down all this bureaucracy. Also, the public needs to know what each of these department heads do, after all, we are paying their salaries. It would be really interesting to find out exactly how much money has been diverted from the classroom into these useless jobs. We need people at the board who are honest, highly skilled and hard-working; we need people to truly work for our children every day, not sloths driving BMWs or Mercedeses at our expense.

  7. John Fusaro says:

    I like that finally we see some action that goes against the status quo. Hopefully Linder will dispute this action so we will all see how people on a power trip react to losing there grasp. I hope we open our eyes to what is going on in Broward County. It appears that people in power positions use their influence to get others into power positions.

  8. John Fusaro says:

    I like that finally we see some action that goes against the status quo. Hopefully Linder will dispute this action so we will all see how people on a power trip react to losing there grasp. I hope we open our eyes to what is going on in Broward County. It appears that people in power positions use their influence to get others into power positions.

  9. Snow says:

    Fantastic!!! Keep going…..so many more should start packing!!!

  10. Amazing Karnack says:

    Clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack.

  11. Hammerhead says:

    BUDDY –

    I believe that you’ve inadvertently mis-spelled the guy’s name. It is Lindner – not Linder.

    I think future employers should be able to do a thorough Google search on him or they may allow history to repeat itself.

    Thanks – and still watching…

    FROM BUDDY: I corrected the places I had the typo. Thanks.

  12. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    I have to ponder…

    Did Runcie seek counsel from life coach businesswoman teacher tennis instructor Rochelle “Friend of Tea Partty” Solomon?

    A move of this magnitude requires great insight into the workings of the school system, and to me, that clearly means Solomon!

    Vote Solomon 2014. Because, well, once was not enough!

  13. Donna Shubert says:

    Superintendent Runcie, YOU ROCK. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Enuf said!!!

  14. I have to ponder too says:

    Maybe Runcie sought advice from Leggett and Lauder’s new bestie Abby Freedman. You know the the “attorney” who has not passed the bar in Florida, former Pentagon Intern who wrote memos for “major generals” (she may have served with Lewinsky which would get her props) and did billings to insurance companies on prepared forms for her husband’s chiro business.

  15. Notocorruption says:

    You may have gotten rid of Tom Lindner, Mr. Runcie, but why are you keeping on the job Chester Tindall, hiding him in an office in Business Support Center in Sunrise?

  16. Sam The Sham says:

    This looks like a step in the right direction. Now, let’s see if it is for real. Will Lindner be replaced with the best candidate from a national search or will Runcie just insert a former Chicago cronie?

  17. Chicago cronie? says:

    I’ve only witnessed complete competence and integrity with the Chicago cronie! Mr.Runcie you are the best thing to happen to Broward County Schools in a long time.

  18. powpow says:

    Wow why dont you fire the black transportation guy opps might look like you brought in one of your cronies who efed up. Oh right its all about the kids my butt.

  19. Mia says:

    Just a drop in the bucket… Keep digging Mr.Runcie!!!

  20. It's about time says:

    Great move, Mr. Runcie!
    Can you imagine how much money the district would have saved if Notter had the balls to fire Garretson, instead of letting his contract expire and/or letting him resign?

  21. just one vote says:

    Kudos to Superintendent Runcie. Lindner will likely get hired by one of those 3 or 4 top notch contractors in town that get all the school work.

  22. Runcie gets it done!! says:

    “…..Lindner has some political clout — his wife Donna Lindner is the long time senior government relations representative for J.M. Family Enterprises, .i.e., lobbyist — it is expected the Board will support Runcie.” So what does SBBC give her?

    Was she his boss when he worked in Facilities at JM Family 2000-2004?
    WHAT exactly were lindner’s qualifications to head Facilities and Construction?

    NO Florida contractor license, no engineer (P.E.) license, no Architect license. Someone’s cronism (pre-Runcie) got him hired in a top position. Lets have the scoop on that hiring so its not repeated with his replacement.

  23. Fly on the Wall says:

    In the past, the School Board has been enamored with graduates from like Lindner from the U. S. Naval Academy and Tom Calhoun from the U. S. Air Force Academy; hiring them to head the Facilities department. Only problem is there knowledge in construction management and construction itself were limited,including construction contracts. As to the U. S. Air Force Academy, Calhoun’s degree was in aeronautical engineering – does that sound like building construction? As to the Linder, his degree from the U. S. Naval Academy included post graduate studies. What was the degree – naval engineering? Does that sound like building construction?
    Garretson’s specialty was building prisons. Notter was head of Facilities twice with no experience in construction except for heading the Vocational Schools. We need qualified individuals with backgrounds in Architecture, Building Construction and Structural Engineering, not Mechanical Engineering, not Electrical Engineering or any other title with Engineering which is not Structural Engineering. Lindner never enforced building codes in maintenance since he was hired in 2004. He said he had more important things to do and he certainly has shown his expertise in both Facilities and Maintenance. Construction Management at Risk projects were promoted by him to eliminate any responsibility of Lindner or the Facilties Staff,costing the taxpayers at least 15-20% more than other types of construction projects. These types of contracts transferred the responsibility to the CM @ Risk firm and took it off the District’s personnel. These personnel’s salaries are now $80,000 to over $100,000 annually. Why should the District be paying these high salaries and then hire a CM @ Risk firm (I left out the contingencies added to these contracts) to manage the projects. Actually, with these contingencies, there was actually no risk and no savings paid back to the District.

    It is interesting to note that most of the volunteers on the Facilities Task Force have little to no experience in construction or architecture. They are appointed by the School Board members.

  24. Transparent says:

    Shout out to Runzie ! Keep going start at the top but please don’t stop . The whole school system needs to be cleaned up . There is money spent on everything but the teachers . Clean up the corruption and show the country Broward county can be a respectable district .

  25. Elect A Superintendent says:

    “The school board will be asked to approve Runcie’s actions.”

    Are you kidding? They are the same ones that were telling Lindner what to do in the first place. Do you think the corruption over there is some accident? That they needed an accounting firm to tell them they were cooking the books and rewarding construction companies with patronage?

    How could this escape everybody’s notice. Lindner is a patsy.

    And what is this non-sense that Runcie, as the superintendent, requires the approval of some Kangaroo Court that even the Grand Jury report recommends getting rid of in order to fire a subordinate?

    Honestly, what kind of organization is it when the CEO requires board approval to replace a member of HIS staff.

    The fact is the Broward School board is a horrible, inept, corruption plagued, inefficient, outdated structure.

    For years it was tolerable but now it stands between how our children should be learning and the mediocre standard in place today in our schools. It adds to the growing reputation in this country that Broward is corrupt. That lowers our property values and will result in a decline in the quality of family we attract here.

    Broward County needs to shake off the mud of too many decades of poor leadership.

    At the school building, the board is the primary problem.

    Get rid of the school board, replace it with an elected CEO and it will get better just like it has everywhere else in the US that has taken that step. Those voters put the welfare of their children first, not politics. Their kids and communities are better off for that wise choice.

    The inherently inefficient structure of management by committee stands in the way of better education for our children. If the Broward School board sold stock under these circumstances, who in their right mind would invest in such a company? It is a miracle any of our kids learn.

    For the sake of our children lets eliminate the corrupt, unnecessary, adds no value, management by committee structure of the school board.

    Replace it with an elected CEO who will be accountable for results to the voters. Reconstitute a school board for the purpose of offering parent advice to the superintendent. Put integrity checks in place with an Inspector General to make sure superintendent acts lawfully and not wastefully. Now you have all the pieces needed to succeed.

    Watch education and the management of our school system improve.

    Being weak and refusing to act sentences our kids to mediocre educations.

    Put your kids first. Not the interests of politics and bureaucrats.

    Elect a superintendent like the rest of the country is increasingly doing and watch education quality improve. Do it before it’s too late.

  26. LifesABeach says:

    If Runcie set up an anonymous hotline to report fraud and waste, he’d find over-spending and misuse of funds everywhere. Principals have employees on the fulltime payroll but they only work parttime, people being paid supplements to do a job but hire others to actually the job, entire departments (HRD training and Curriculum Specialists for example) who spend far too much time enhancing and advertising their own importance rather than actually being important. Expensive rent for office space while SB buildings are empty. It sickens me to see the Intercoastal views from KCWright’s windows while students are huddled in portable classrooms

  27. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    I mean Mr.Lindner was damned if he did and damned if he did not. Oh I know its all his fault. Remember the board is the final policy maker not him. One of you made a valid point w/ all th e fuss about Tindale there, but he is still employed. W/ all the “favors” you did for this group or that tell them now you need a favor-a job. Good luck Mr.Lindner.

  28. Simpleman says:

    Having worked for and suffered under his arrogant bullying uninformed unintelligent management style since he started in the district, from his speech to maintenance employees at the South Plantation High auditorium where he hypocritically criticized blue collar workers for unprofessional work attire while he was dressed in his biker costume of blue jeans, cowboy boots, and a hideous skull adorned designer t-shirt, to the end of his inglorious reign of terror, where he let his lackeys take the fall at the recent embarrassing display of systemic incompetence that was the last Board workshop. So, I am not surprised that he would be so arrogant and too stupid to bow out with whatever grace was possible under the circumstances, for as his mental match of a fictional character, Forest Gump, said, stupid is as stupid does. Too bad TommyBoy didn’t have the morals and principles of the movie character, but then again, compared to Tom, Gump was practically a genius. Screw you Tom. Got leadership?

  29. Ed Foley says:

    Runcie is doomed! The end won’t be swift for him but it will be ugly.

  30. Floridan says:

    Chief Portfolio Services Officer Joanne Harrison resigned. The hiring of Harrison two months after she retired in 2009 was criticized by the teachers’ union, who noted she was receiving a $135,000-a-year salary and her pension while employee layoffs were being considered

    Harrison may or may not have been the right choice in 2009, but I don’t see how hiring her had any impact on the budget. She was going to receive her pension anyway, and whoever was hired would have to be paid a salary.

  31. To Floridian says:

    @Floridan. Harrision retired and she was getting a pension, which is a payment that is supposed to be paid for living expenses when one is finished with their job because of age. By hiring her back, the administration was giving her huge bonus that was never intended. Instead of laying off teachers and bus drivers, should have closed out that position. What is a “chief portfolio services officer” anyway?

  32. David Rosenof says:

    Fly on the wall … Glad you said “most of the volunteers” on the FTF. For the record – I am Robin’s appointment and I am a 30 year construction veteran – Florida licened contractor (CGC 1520372), LEEP AP and PMP (Project Management Professional) certified by the PMI. There is a good mix on the task force of all backgrounds. It is hard however to have industry folks to volunteer when serving on the FTF precludes you from doing any work with the SBBC.

  33. Floridan says:

    @”To Floridan”: I’ll be charitable and assume you misread my original post. My point was that hiring Ms. Harrison had no budgetary impact — the School Board was obligated to pay her the pension she had earned, and it had decided that this was a staff position that was needed and should be filled. If Harrison had not been hired, someone else would have been.

    Now I suppose that money would be saved if the School Board took your advice and eliminated the position. However, the fact that you don’t know what the position does is probably not a good reason to get rid of it.

    I’ll refrain from commenting on your rather peculiar view of pensions.

  34. Dress for success says:

    Sounds like Linder went to the Scott Rothstien closet for clothes…

    he was dressed in his biker costume of blue jeans, cowboy boots, and a hideous skull adorned designer t-shirt

  35. Nick Sakhnovsky says:

    I agree with the major points presented, but I am not sure where Fly on the Wall gets his/her “interesting to note” information. Thus there are a couple of clarifications:
    1) technically all FTF member are “appointed” each year by the board, but only their “individual appointees” are actually selected by the board members. These comprise a minority of members — not “most.”
    2) In any event, that does not mean they “know little or nothing about construction or architecture”. My observation is that most do know more than “little or nothing about construction or architecture”. In fact I would say that active members over the years have performed well, since the primary required attribute is the ability to convey questions and information to and from the constituencies they represent.
    3) Their perspective is what matters… and the FTF has shown itself very good at challenging the facilities department, offering constructive criticism, and serving the SBBC under the policy which governs it. How the board uses the information it receives from us is beyond the FTF members’ control, however.

  36. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    First to Flyonthewall: Most of the members of the Facilities Task Force have business backgrounds. Others are recipients of what the infamous Facilities Dept. has done over the years.

    One doesn’t have to be a surgeon to be able to research and find the best. It’s a matter of knowing what to look for and being able to ask the right questions.

    I remind you that it was the Task Force that recommended almost every reform that every Grand Jury has recommended regarding Facilities. It’s all on the district’s website in our minutes.

    I also remind you that it was the Task Force that told the School Board members to take themselves off QSEC (selection committee).

    I was on the selection committee that ranked candidates when the district chose the one that had questionable education background.We did not rank him well. He was not confirmed by the board because of it. Then the sup’t. and COO chose someone to replace him. None of our high ranked people were employed. The disasters that followed are now history.

    David, there’s a good reason why those who serve on the Task Force can’t do business with the district. It’s a conflict of interest.

    We have managed to be spot on with what we’ve observed and recommended for years. We expect to continue to do that.

  37. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    Hey Charlotte.

    Ignore Fly On The Wall.

    He’s just another Bob Norman Self Righteous Groupie…

    With a healthy dose of Know It All.

    (see Patty “Irish Car Bomb” Lynn).

    Which, when you think about it, describes most of those whackanuts to a tee.

    You keep fighting the good fight for all of us. My money is always on you.

    Happy Holiday.

    Chaz Stevens, Pastafarian

  38. christine says:

    Charlotte posts regularly on Bob Norman’s blog as well.

  39. REAL_GHOST_OF_WAYNE_THRASHER says:

    He fired by buddy Paul Giordano from the District. Now he himself is a history. I am waiting to when he will be my neighbor.

    I am watching everything from grave and I know who is coming next ……..

  40. Hammerhead says:

    How can Lindner or anybody else for that matter be “rogue?”

    I distinctly recall the Blue Ribbon Commission put together by Dinnen and Notter announcing that there were no other problems with the facilities department. They said that the problems were already fixed before the grand jury report even came out.

    Does this mean that the members of that Blue Ribbon Commission were wrong? Were they politically motivated in their findings? Should any of them be allowed to sit on such a commission in the future? Were they lied to and did not do the extra steps to verify before publishing an unsigned report?

    I will be more careful in the future before I go listening to any Blue Ribbon Commission when they give the “all clear.” Maybe we should all be cautious before buying that “everything is fixed.”

  41. Paul Giordano says:

    To “REAL_GHOST_OF_WAYNE_THRASHER”

    FYI – Lindner never fired me. I retired from the SBBC with dignity and respect!!!

  42. Missy says:

    Hooray! Notter’s pet Gracie “know-nothing” Diaz finally gets the demotion she deserves. All I can say is 2010 layoffs Gracie. Karma is a real b*tch. Too bad they only demoted her. She deserved to be fired long ago.

  43. Janet says:

    Missy, I guess you were an incompetent employees laid off by HR in 2010? Everyone knows Gracie Diaz was probably the hardest working, most competent person in the glass building. She asked for the change and judging by the warm praise she received from the board members yesterday, she is a rare breed. Kudos to her, who wants to work till ten o’clock every night managing stupid, ungrateful bitches like yourself Missy!

  44. Harvey says:

    JM Family Enterprises.

    Klink, Carter, Lindner all came to the Board from JM Family Enterprises. Hey, I’ve got an idea! Stop hiring JM Family Enterprises castoffs. Makes one wonder how the pipeline was established in the first place.

  45. Mia says:

    Why so angry Janet???

  46. just saying says:

    stop hiring unqualified people regardless of origin -
    no licenses
    no pertinent education
    no bldg code expertise
    no inspector certifications
    no construction or design experience first hand (not even a summer job)
    worse sbbc hires from the very A/E firms that screw up and viola they got more work
    a review of all staff over last 15 yrs at sbbc facilities will show they came from A/E firms that got more work over last 15 years
    talk about inside track
    they protect their own at all costs
    JUST TAXPAYER EXPENSE

  47. Janet says:

    Because I know the situation surrounding Mrs. Diaz and it isn’t the same situation as Lindner and Harrison. The head of HR is probably the hardest job at KCW. Ms. Diaz has been working till 9-10 every night and getting there early. She’s been doing that for five years. When the opportunity came up to try something different and maybe she could get home to see her son before he goes to bed, well, she went for it. She asked Runice and he reluctantly agreed. Do you know how many school board members called her to either congratulate her on the new job or to make sure this is really what she wanted? Most of them. Her new job will be a wonderful opportunity and the pay will be nearly the same. It is about as far from a demotion as it could be. Goes to show you Missy is clueless!

  48. Fly on the Wall says:

    To Harvey,

    Ken Klink came from Florida Power and Light. Donnie Carter was fired from Miami Dade County Public Schools.

  49. Fly on the Wall says:

    I should say Donnie Carter was fired from Miami Dade County Schools before being hired by the JM Family. It has been rumored he did not leave JM of his own volition.

  50. Pete the maniac says:

    Now it’s time to have Little Miss Trinidad (Shelly Meloni) removed along with Dennis Herman the freak.

  51. Harvey says:

    Dear Fly,

    You are correct but so am I. They both worked for JM also.

  52. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    @David Rosenof

    You speak about avoiding conflicts of interest…

    Yet…

    Your wife works for the magazine Parkland Life. Her job is to sell advertising to local businesses.

    The same businesses that come before the Commission. Perhaps on matters that you cast a vote.

    So tell me, Commissioner Rosenof, why should I believe you when you say, “I’m not going to violate my ethics.”

    I’ve heard otherwise, in particular, a little ditty having to do with a “sign”.

    So later this week, when you hear from your Clerk someone’s submitted a couple PRRs … that someone will be me.

    Let’s see how squeaky clean you really are, shall we?

  53. Chaz gets it done says:

    Go Chaz! maybe Broward can be cleaned up one elected official at a time. in spite of Browatd IG.

  54. Jim Kale says:

    Hey “Pete the maniac”

    Based on my experience with the District, the following useless-do-nothing

    David Herrmann
    Alice Shapiro
    Divine Amoah
    Gary Hines

    Should be in Santa’s list for X-Mas??

  55. Jim Kale's Alter Ego says:

    Hey Jim Kale,

    Based on my knowledge and experience with the District, I have to ask, why don’t you cut to the chase and include the following useless-do-nothings:

    Set Aidie,
    Ron Morgan,
    Mark Dorsett,
    “The Energy Guy,”
    etc.

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