Fields: Schools Grand Jury Report Unfair






Imagine if the Dolphins, following a practice session, announced that this offense was the greatest in the history of the NFL.  They scored every time they got the ball! Superbowl here we come.

That claim becomes a bit tarnished when you learn that the practice was secret and the coach did not allow the defense on the field.

You now know how Grand Juries work.

The original purpose of grand juries was to protect us against frivolous allegations that kept people locked up for a trial that might never happen.  It was enshrined in the Magna Carta.

But, like institutions intended to do one thing, with the passage of time, they are co-opted to act in an opposite direction.  Protect the public? Hardly.

Grand Juries are one-sided proceedings in which the accused has no right to call witnesses or challenge his accusers. It was best summed up by The Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals who observed: “A prosecutor could get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich”.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about a statewide Grand Jury Report which excoriated the Broward County School Board.

It was talked about by thousands…and read by dozens.  I joined the dozens and found a document mostly consisting of anonymous name calling and unsupported conclusions.

For example, the report excoriates the overuse of Project Managers (PM) and the punishment of Project Managers who complained about shoddy work.   Here’s what the report said:

“Meanwhile, employees who do their job too well and draw the ire of either contractors or Board members by demanding quality products and adherence to rules and procedures receive the same treatment or worse. Managers unprotected by Union membership are on even thinner ice.

One example can be found in the Facilities and Construction Management Division. At one point in the last few years there were as many as seventy PMs employed by the Division. According to several witnesses, including two high level managers, there was only need for 25-35. One manager went so far as to say he could have gotten by with as little as twelve PMs.

The managers complained of the near impossibility of having anyone fired no matter how egregious their behavior. One PM brazenly ran a side business from his cell phone during office hours. Managers testified they followed employees and saw them taking off early or running errands for hours and then lying about where they were during the workday. Attempts to fire staff were routinely turned down by (Schools Construction Chief Michael) Garretson, who in any case would need the concurrence of the Superintendent and a majority vote of the Board.

Even more PMs were added at Garretson’s behest despite protests from the PM supervisors. It was the opinion of management that many of these positions were created for cronies of either Garretson or Board members. PMs are paid between $80,000 and $100,000 depending on experience. Even taking the most conservative figure from the witnesses, reducing the number of PMs to 35 could have saved as much as $3.5 million a year in salaries.”


Great report, except for the five things that were missing: “who, what, where, when and why”. Where is the evidence?  It doesn’t pass a standard for Junior High journalism.

Some anonymous persons said that there were too many Project Managers costing $3.5 million per year. Shoddy work was being ignored. Who said that? What were their qualifications? Do they have an axe to grind? Etc., etc., etc.

The proper way to do this was bring in an impartial expert.  Pay him to review the use of Project Managers and compare it with national standards.  Has there been a material deviation from those standards? If so, how much has it cost, who’s responsible and recommend changes?

Give the accused a chance to rebut the allegations!

Instead, we have something that combines Salem Witch Trials, Star Chamber proceedings with a touch of Darkness At Noon and schoolyard rumor mongering!

It was a one-sided secret trial that ruined the reputation of people who had no opportunity to defend themselves against nameless people who had absolute immunity underpinning their anonymous allegations.

It is no exaggeration to say that accused Communists in the 1950’s got more Due Process appearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee.




As an attorney who defends those accused of crimes, Sam Fields apparently has a problem with Grand Juries.  Fields has read enough Grand Jury reports to know that they traditionally do not name the informants reporting wrongdoing. This report lists few names, but the many shortcoming of the school district governance are documented.

The fact that prosecutors felt the need to examine the construction practices of the Broward Schools twice in less than 10 years speak volumes.

The fact that the school system frittered away billions during the lush years without doing the necessary maintenance also speaks volumes.  It is the reason why an $800 million bond issue is being considered in this election.

The Grand Jury recommended a prohibition against taking campaign contributions and gifts from vendors; the appointment of an outside, independent Inspector General to audit School Board spending; reduction in the number of School Board members and an election to determine whether the public wants an elected superintendent…among many other suggestions.

The current School Board balked and dragged its feet on almost every suggestion. It even used former state Sen. Nan Rich, mother of School Board Member Laurie Rich Levinson, to kill a bill requiring the Board to fall under the Inspector General.

The Grand Jury held a mirror up to the School Board.  The public did not like what they saw accurately captured in that mirror — wasted tax money, steered contracts and mismanagement.

The Grand Jury report is below. You decide:

Broward County Schools–Final Report of Grand Jury

12 Responses to “Fields: Schools Grand Jury Report Unfair”

  1. Sam Fields says:

    Perhaps Buddy’s failure to understand why I am offended by the unfairness of secret investigations and anonymous accusers is our different professions.

    While reporters often rely on anonymous sources for their ultimate act—the newspaper story—lawyers are required to put up or shut up.

    There are no anonymous sources at trial.

    A one sided secret investigation can make it sound any way the authors want.

    For example, I might defend the report by showing that the report’s arch villain, Faculties Supervisor Michael Garretson, never once denied the allegations in the January, 2011 report. That is absolutely true then and now. Any person whose reputation is so besmirched would not remain silent unless the allegations were true!

    Game, set, match! Nothing more to say.

    Except for one thing.

    Did I forget to mention that Garretson died six months before the report was issued? Picky, picky, picky.

    Imagine if the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings were not public and televised but were in secret and only the Democrats got to question the witnesses.

    Furthermore, the final public report relied on anonymous sources.

    Such a report would have been rightfully viewed by the public as partisan bullshit. Nixon never would have been run out of office as he so deserved.

    If we can investigate the President of the United States and the inner workings of the Oval Office in public exactly why can’t we investigate Broward school construction in the sunshine.


    Much of the information covered in the Grand Jury report was made public originally by the Audit Committee, which meets in the Sunshine.

    Of course, Sam ignores that the entire Watergate scandal including the Senate hearings were triggered by an anonymous source — Deep Throat.

  2. Tamarac Voter says:

    Hard to know where to begin with this silly post. The Grand Jury was called for very good cause and heard from lots of district employees, board members and others. Mountains of documents were produced as well.

    The recommendations made were sound but most were not implemented because the district remains arrogant and refuses to change how they do business. Few places in America would allow that to happen, none would take seriously the kind of garbage just said about the Grand Jury report produced following a corruption scandal.

    The report was carefully studied and written. It should be praised not challenged, followed not ignored.

  3. John Broward says:

    Pretty disingenuous for a Defense Attorney to start trying their case in a blog, they should reserve that for the Courtrooms.

    Separately, there were PLENTY of members of the Broward Democratic Party organization who were (and still are) skeptical about providing more money to the School Board when the School Board staffers under investigation are still employed by the Board. After all, it took a big push from the upper level Broward County Party leadership (and from the Broward Teacher’s Union) to have the whole DEC vote in favor of endorsing the Bond measure for this coming election.

    I will close in saying that we all will be paying close attention to what the School Board does IF they get this money, hopefully they will not act as just another flatulent public sector organization.

    By the way, the name John Broward is a pseudonym.

  4. Becky Blackwood says:

    Sorry Mr. Fields,
    Interesting– documentation was provided to the laypersons of the Grand Jury who accurately described just some of the illegal acts that were committed by the Superintendents of School, the Associate Superintendents of Facilities and Chief Building Officials.

    It is possible to fire an employee because there is a defined procedure to follow for a non performing or poorly performing employee. The problem was many supervisors did not want the responsibility. In some cases, no evaluations were not done or the employee was allowed to prepare their own evaluations which were signed off by the supervisor. I even had a director who failed to send my evaluations to the personnel files which was not found out until my lawsuit in 2004. In those evaluations were descriptions of a poor employee who did not come to work, who did not call in when he did not come to work and did not report to the office. That employee elected to leave my supervision and go to Facilities. He was later let go by Mike Garretson.

    If you want names on some of the people mentioned in the Grand Jury report, I can give them to you, including two of the Project Managers who were conducting business while working for the School Board. One is still there.

    The Grand Jury has no enforcement power. It can only provide recommendations to the School Board. When questioned after the initial Grand Jury report in a follow up, the School Board would give false information to the Grand Jury to make them believe they were following their recommendations when it was business as usual.

    Past School Board members were made aware of what was going on and in most cases elected to look the other way. Three current Board members approached me at political meetings and expressed their regrets about firing me after an Administrative Judge ruled I had done nothing wrong and directed them to put me back to work. One even openly cried; two suggested they would meet with me to hear recommendations to improve the construction program if I would send them an e-mail to set up a meeting. I sent the e-mail and never heard from either one of them. At one point, my e-mails were blocked from the School Board’s website.

    The clause in the Union contract with the School Board that allows bumping should be removed. The Human Resources individual who determined which employees were qualified to bump into other departments from the Facilities Department did not have the appropriate experience to make those decisions.

    Please read my other comment on the last subject regarding the School Board mismanagement for more information.

    I personally don’t know how the mindset of the School Board personnel in construction and inspection can change because no real efforts have been made to make any changes but to outsource project management services.

  5. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Buddy, you’re spot on. Sam obviously hasn’t read the Office of the Chief Auditor’s many audits that explicitly identify who, what, when where and why.

    He would like us to think that the GJ relied only on the testimony of people who lived through the abuses and were close to the situation. The GJ had reams of evidence, including the audits.

    I was on the Audit Committee for 15 years and read every one. The Chair reported yearly about the problems. The Board and Sup’t.s ignored all of it. They are still ignoring the audits. Runcie threw his own Chief Auditor under the bus when he allowed payments to be made that the auditors said should not have been. Runcie made excuses and the Board smiled and nodded.

    But then reading said material would have taken the wind out of Sam’s sails and he wouldn’t have been able to falsely accuse the Grand Jury of not doing its work to his satisfaction.

    Classic trial lawyer.

  6. Señor Censor says:

    Looks like nobody cares about this subject

  7. Sam Fields says:

    Charlotte, Becky etc,

    You sound just like the Grand Jury report…allegations and conclusions without evidence/proof.

    The GJ and the Audit Committee (which Charlotte says she served on) are all part of the government. You and the GJ saying the same thing: “You can trust me, I’m from the government”.

    I need a little more than that.

    I never met Garretson—who died six months before the report was published and therefore could not defend his reputation. I don’t think I have ever even met a member of the current school board.

    I have no axe to grind. I just want to see the evidence that supports these serious charges.

    So let me make it simple with just one allegation. The GJ report says that some unnamed person concluded that $3.5 million was wasted on Project Managers. Just tell me who this person is and show me how he/she came to conclude this.

    And don’t ask me to do it. I can’t prove a negative. It’s your belief and therefore it’s your reasonability to offer up the proof.

    If you got the goods then fine. I have no problem admitting you are right.

    Absent that evidence, I will have to conclude what I have always feared about Charlotte. She’s Barney Schlesinger in drag.


    Sam, you know nothing about the Audit Committee. It is a group of citizens advising the School Board.

    You also know nothing about Charlotte Greenbarg or Barney Schlesinger, two individuals who were brave enough to fight to correct wrongs at the Broward Schools.

    Michael Garretson had plenty of time to defend himself and so did the school system construction department. This from the Sun-Sentinel:

    “Many of my staff, including me, has been to see the grand jury,” said Tom Lindner, the district’s school construction chief. Lindner took the job about a year ago; the grand jury was selected in February.

    Lindner’s predecessor, Michael Garretson, who has since died, “was called to testify four times,” Lindner said. Others who have testified include Irene Kuziw, a secretary in the Building Department, Thomas Keane, a building inspector, and Rick Ragland, former executive director of facilities project management.

    Again, the Broward Schools has been under investigation continuously for decades by both state, federal and local authorities. School Board members have been arrested. Millions have been wasted on everything from moldy schools to swamp land that can’t be built upon. The evidence is there if you care to look through decades of audits, legal actions and testimony which is now public.

    Sometimes where there is smoke, there really is fire.

  8. Greenberg's Comments Gjrand Jury says:

    So, I must agree with Sam Fields because, I believe that any Grand Jury recommendation is not a final legal indictment as to guilt or innocence. I personally know a number of the individuals who made statements to the State Attorney and all the comments were not statements of facts but even in some instances it was simply an attempt to discredit Mike Garretson, because he was not liked by some individuals from the old guard who were resistant to progressive change. One of the senior managers and the executive director who made the reckless statement that the entire Capital Program at the time could be managed with 12 Project Managers had absolutely no credentials to make such an analysis. In fact both individuals were very poor managers themselves. The Executive Director was eventually fired by Tom Linder after it was abundantly clear that he was guilty of dereliction of his duties. He would not do the required review of documents and made sure he did not sign the same and he would delegate the function to lower level staff and then if there were errors, try to lay the blame and responsibility on others. The excuse was that his signature was never on any document with errors. Managers were told that they had to return to the office before ending the workday, even if they were at the opposite end of the county for whatever reasons related to the business of the SBBC. In addition he mandated that lunch breaks of an hour, must be taken between 11 Am and 2PM daily. So that mindset contributed to counter productivity of Professional Managers who at times would work through the regular lunch hours and most times if they are out in the field end the day well after the scheduled end of the work day. So unless the statements made by undisclosed individuals to the Grand Jury can be challenged then as Sam said, the system is unfair. The auditors and the Audit committee have made numerous errors, even though Charlotte Greenberg will never admit to that fact and for 15 years on the said committee the effort was always to have someone fired because she had a personal dislike for the individual. I believe the SBBC internal auditors should be looking for ways to strengthen the accountability processes of the district but it seems now that they go for exposing the skullduggery even if there is none to uncover. So for that reason some Audit Report is filled with errors and misinterpretation of the facts. The current Managers of Facilities Audits are not CPA’s or process any credentials or prior credible experiences as auditors so go figure the reliability of their work product. Pat Riley needs to make sure he is getting credible audit findings before presenting these reports to the Audit Committee and to the Board.

  9. Also Attended says:

    You would have to be a complete fool to trust this school board not because a few of them have been arrested but because they take no outward action to show remorse. They take no outward action to make it better. It is all about public relations and lies. They have no trust except from fools.

  10. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Thanks, Buddy, I appreciate your comments. Barney was truly great.

    Sam knows me well from the 1995 tax battle. He was the one who wanted to throw the reporter out of the window because he didn’t want anyone to know there was an election. I still have the Florida Trend issue with the story about not only that, but also “How Big Money Buys a School Board”

    He also was part of the group we actually had to go to court to find out where they were holding the meetings trying to convince people to vote for the tax. The judge agreed with us that it was public record and dismissed the case without prejudice in case they didn’t come clean.

    Sam, read the audits. You obviously haven’t done that yet. Auditors don’t lie, at least honest ones such as those who work in Pat Reilly’s department don’t. Maybe you’ve been hanging around with the wrong crowd. No trust involved; just the facts.

    And as for the spelling-challenged blogger “Greenberg’s comments….”
    Pat Reilly is a CPA and he is responsible for all audits that are produced.

    How do I know you’re a system lackey? Because that’s the false claim that the ethically-challenged district bullies make against Pat’s department on a regular basis.

    And your charge that I had a personal animus towards any employee is more of the same.

    Your actions are beneath contempt. Just like your boss.

  11. Sam Fields says:

    Dear Charlotte,

    The group that I represented in court was that evil, big money Wall Street cabal known as The Parent, Teacher, Association—The Broward PTA….not the Harper Valley PTA.

    I won my end of the case when the judge agreed they were private and did not have to divulge their records……

  12. Thanks Ms. Greenbarg says:

    I am really sorry that I have an opinion different than yours and therefore my actions and comments are beneath contempt. How much better this world would be if we all had the same opinions like Ms. Greenbarg. I promise I will try to do better with my spelling but none the less my previous comments was in regards to the Managers of Facility Audits. They are all previous Project Managers who were laid off from the Facilities Department. Pat Reilly is a CPA and has the credentials and experience for the office he holds however sorry that the facts cannot be substantiated for the individuals producing the Facilities Audits. Yes I was laid off to from the Facilities Department and was fortunate to be rehired within the organization but certainly I have no animosity towards the system and if that makes me a lackey then so be it. So yes as always you can look down your nose at those who are not as educated as you are and do not see the world through your eyes so all I can hope for is that God will bless your heart and open your eyes so that you may change your contempt for those who disagree with you.