BY BUDDY NEVINS
Higher ups in the school system ordered an investigation of two School Board members after a complaint their comments at a public meeting amounted to bullying.
The taxpayer-paid investigation of School Board members Robin Bartleman and Nora Rupert cleared the two public officials, according to documents obtained by Browardbeat.com today.
The results are not as notable as this:
It is unprecedented that the school staff conducted an investigation of Board members for comments they made at a public meeting.
The two members investigated — Bartleman and Rupert — are the most outspoken critics of School Superintendent Robert Runcie.
Supintendent Robert Runcie
Triggering the extraordinary investigation was Jillian Haring, a teacher that Runcie personally promoted outside of the usual channels.
The Superintendent said he admired Haring skills with a computer and databases. So he gave her a job in January 2015 as an investigator with the school police, although she had no law enforcement training.
But her transition wasn’t smooth.
Haring’s special treatment from Runcie provoked criticism from some in the school system.
Then she began taking part in police interviews of teachers and principals accused of wrongdoing. There were allegations that she was confrontational and intimidated those who disagreed with her.
“Haring basically took over the Investigations Department,” according to the statement of retired Broward Schools Police Major Angie Pollock.
Pollock alleged that Haring ruled the school police.
“Haring told…that the Chief’s name will come off all police forms and she will be the sole signer. She will sign off on all cases and not the Chief. Haring stated that ‘Bob’, she never called him Mr. Runcie, gave her the authority to do these things,” Pollock said.
Having a former teacher with no law enforcement training virtually control the school police rubbed some the wrong way.
Some of Haring’s critics complained to School Board members Bartleman and Rupert.
There were allegations that Haring allegedly received a raise to roughly $70,000-a-year. There were complaints about Haring’s lack of law enforcement qualifications and her alleged strong-arm tactics.
Bartleman and Rupert heard enough. They brought the issue up at Board meetings.
Becoming a public issue, was distressing for Haring. She formally complained she was being harassed and bullied by Bartleman and Rupert… at the public meetings.
She also complained about Pat Reilly, the school’s Chief Auditor; Lisa Maxwell, the executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants Association; and Pollock.
Emails show that Runcie’s top staff were flummoxed by the harassment complaint.
Staff somehow made the decision to hire retired Broward County Court Judge Robert Zack to investigate Haring’s allegations.
Former Broward County Judge Robert Zack
That staff believed it was acceptable to investigate the Board is inexplicable even in a government as dysfunctional as the Broward Schools. That staff had the taxpayers pay for an investigation of its elected bosses — inexcusable!
Who actually approved the investigation?
It isn’t immediately clear from the documents released in this matter.
A possible clue? Runcie told Zack in a statement that the two Board members public questions about Haring’s pay and promotion were “out of line.”
Rupert disagreed with Runcie’s reasoning.
In her statement, Rupert stated, “to not inquire about these matters when brought to her attention would mean she was not doing her job as a School Board member.”
A judge from 1988 to 2009 and now a mediator, Zack interviewed all those Haring accused of harassment and Runcie. He concluded that Haring was the one who was guilty of bad conduct.
“The testimony does suggest a pattern of confrontation and intimidation on the part of Mrs. Haring towards anyone who questioned or disagreed with her,” Zack wrote.
This isn’t the last we will hear of this matter.
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