School Construction Chief’s Retirement Overdue


The Broward schools construction chief Michael Garretson is retiring at the end of the month.

It’s about four years overdue.

I don’t know if Garretson did anything criminally wrong.

Morally wrong, maybe.

Fiscally wrong, definitely.

The construction department spent more than $1 billion in tax money during Garretson’s tenure to build new schools and renovate old ones.

The school audit department is still trying to figure out how much of the money was wasted. The Feds are still trying to figure out how much of the money was criminally misspent. 

The Feds want to know how many of the contracts were fixed.  Were there kickbacks?  Did School Board members steer contracts to their favored lobbyists’ clients? 

Garretson’s record?  It includes:

*The purchase of $4.3 million worth of unusable swamp land in Southwest Ranches in a deal put together by political insiders.

*Overpaying AshBritt Inc., a Pompano Beach debris removal firm, according to the school system’s own audit committee.  The committee says taxpayers are owed over $765,000 that the schools overpaid for repair work in portable classrooms after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.  Garretson has been in front of a federal Grand Jury to discuss this deal.

*Suspicions about School Board members Bob Parks and Bev Gallagher.  Both were able to set up meetings between their favorite contractors and Garretson, an advantage that other builders didn’t have. Gallagher has been suspended following her arrest by the Feds for corruption.

 *Wasting millions of dollars on new schools while the student population declined, according to a state study released last month.

*Skyrocketing construction overruns on numerous projects.  An example:  The southwest Broward school bus depot, originally budgeted at $4.5 million, now is priced at $14 million and is still under construction after eight years.  

*Promised work that was never completed in many areas of Broward.  There have been plans for Fort Lauderdale High’s extensive renovations since the early 1990s, but parents are still waiting.  There is still no timetable to build a high school in Weston, although parents were told more than six years ago that a new school was on the way.

Before coming to the Broward schools system, Garretson helped develop the Disneyland Resort outside of Paris.

Maybe he learned budgeting and planning in Fantasyland. And maybe now that he is retiring, the public will no longer be treated like Dumbo.

We can only Wish Upon A Star.

12 Responses to “School Construction Chief’s Retirement Overdue”

  1. Hollywood Resident says:

    You perform a service keeping us aware of what is going on everywhere that doesn’t involve Scott Rothstein. Mr. Rothstein will be gone and in jail and we will still be endearing the politicians who remain here stealing our taxes. Doesn’t anybody see that Mr. Rothstein is a distraction and the real problem is the School Board and County Commision.

    FROM BUDDY: Thanks for your comment. I believe you mean “enduring” or maybe “suffering,” not endearing.

  2. All About Drywall says:

    Serving on the Broward County School Board is all about drywall.

    What most would consider an elected position dedicated to ensuring that our kids get the best possible education, has turned into a job dedicated to ensuring that the contractor giving you the most campaign funding gets the construction jobs.

    We have more classroom seats than we have children to fill them. But not enough graduate from high school.

    We have millions wasted on construction projects and swampland. But there is not enough money to run arts and music programs.

    We have millions to spend on more administrative staff than any school board should ever need serving them. But not enough to pay teachers a proper and respectable wage.

    We also have residents that, when it comes right down to it, don’t really give a shit because they do nothing to stop it.

    That is the state of education and civic pride that we have in Broward County. This person Garretson needed to go, that’s true. But the staff there is not the problem. All they do is reflect the expectations of their leaders. How staff behave in that bloated, twisted, misguided bureaucracy is merely a symptom of a much larger disease.

    That fish smells from the head.

  3. Weston resident says:

    Garretson was in charge while bids were fixed and the same contractors got every job. The school was never built in Weston because Garretson bought the wrong land from Richard Rubin and Ira Cor and then when he went looking for more land, Ron Bergeron held them up for ranson and Garretson ran out of money. Instead of where we need the school, a high school was built in Pembroke Pines where it is not needed. This is what Garretson left us with so Weston homeowners are happy to say Goodby Mike and not sorry to see you go.

  4. Broward Voter says:

    Quit whining Weston resident. If Roy Rogers and Arvida had provided the appropriate land (that they promised) when developing “Your Hometown,” in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, you’d have your high school. The fact that Mr. Rogers currently sits on two VERY influentual school board committees is even more troubling. Corruption built Weston, it’s kind of funny that it also is working to its detriment.

  5. That's Bullshit says:

    Hey Broward voter, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Roy Rogers and Arvida had to go to the school board, just like everybody else, and give them whatever they wanted, either land, money or both in order to get the approvals to build.

    Make no mistake about this. You cannot blame the developers on this score.

    This one is 100% totally on the school board. They decided to take money instead of land so they could buy SW Ranches swamp deals and such instead of making sure Weston was well taken care of.

    Have some facts before you say that crap. I’m no fan of Arvida’s. But Weston needing more school seats was never their fault.

  6. InTheKnow says:

    You’re both full of shit.

    The city of Weston offered to donate 45 acres of land for their new high school, adjacent to Weston Regional Park. FOR FREE. And Roy Rogers was part of the deal.

    Frank Till and Beverly Gallagher brought out the Sierra Club mafia to oppose the property offered by Weston in order to kill the school in favor of Gallagher’s boondoggle.

    With all the protests from the “environmental” mafia over the Weston land, not a peep was heard over the swamp in Southwest Ranches.

  7. Weston resident says:

    The real story, InTheKnow, is that the land Weston wanted to “donate” couldn’t get the approvals because it was restricted in some way. Bergeron had property. We were told that there was also property near I595. Garretson and the School Board could never get their butts in gear to pick land and build the school. They were dead set on getting that swamp property and then suddenly came up with the idea to build a school in Pembroke Pines that nobody needed or wanted. I wonder who got paid off for that one.

  8. Mr. Jay says:

    I hope he gets picked up and spends time in the slammer with Bev, Steph and her hubby! This piece of scum must be made to pay for ripping us off.

    It is time that the whole top level from Notter down to the area levels got the axe including the board members and we start with a new slate!

    As a taxpayer I and sick and tired of this!

  9. Still Wrong says:

    Your timeframes are off. The issue with the 45 acres came years after Weston was developed. Frank Till and Bev Gallagher weren’t even in the picture when Weston was being developed.

    Back in the early 1990’s Arvida had to go to the school board with a school mitigation plan that would have involved transfer of land, or cash, or a combination in order to get the school board to sign off on their construction plans. That money should have been used by the school board to provide the requisite number of school seats that Weston would require.

    The school board cut their deal with Arvida. They took some land but a bunch of cash. They built some schools and chose to spend the cash elsewhere. Those decisions short changed Weston on school seats.

    That’s exactly what took place.

    This business of Till doing Gallagher’s bidding with the 45 acres came much later, years after the real initial damage had been done. It was a total fiasco.

  10. InTheKnow says:

    You’re correct on the general timing. Since the conflict between the Southwest Ranches swamp and the proposed Weston High School was brought up, the earlier events don’t matter in the scheme of things.

    The fact that Weston offered property for free does. That property being part of the grand scheme of land on which Regional Park was built as well as the last development along Park Rd. to the southeast all had the same “caveats.” The environmental mafia said nothing about Regional Park or the additional residential community on that property but “suddenly” had a real problem with the school. As I said, that mafia which was so concerned about losing wetlands said nothing about the real swamp in SW Ranches. They were nowhere to be found.

    Bergeron just saw an opportunity to sell his tract of land (which just happened to be at the extreme southeastern side of the same area) with no objections by the environmental mafia. I wonder why?

  11. School Employee says:

    All About Drywall is right. The School Board spends most of its time and attention dealing with construction because thats where it gets most of its campaign contributions from. There are no campaign contributions in education, which is the real job they are suppose to be doing. Look at Bob Parks, who I read was more concerned with getting the right person to build a school than he was in what they were teaching.

  12. Beth The Bounty Hunter says:

    Amen I couldn’t say it better than All About Drywall, Mr. Jay and School Employee. As a thorn in the Board Members side the late Barney Schlesinger would say, WE NEED INSTRUCTION NOT CONSTRUCTION. May he Rest in Peace to see corruption out of the Broward Schools and Mr. Garretson along with them.