Taxpayers Lose Again: Broward School Board’s $555k Bad Deal





Leave it to The Broward School Board to turn $765,000 of your tax money into $210,000.

School Board members this week settled a long-standing dispute concerning overbilling by AshBritt Inc., a contractor who helped fix roofs and do other repairs after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Auditors found that AshBritt overbilled the district at least $765,000.

Nine years later and after lengthy litigation, AshBritt and the schools have finally settled.

AshBritt is the winner.  It is paying $555,000 less than the auditors said it owed.

Nowhere in the documents given the School Board or the public this week is the original audit amount mentioned.  So much for transparency that Superintendent Robert Runcie trumpets about.

Why settle with AshBritt now?

Maybe it is because Runcie wants voters to approve up to $1 billion in bonds in November and doesn’t want this dispute hanging over the School Board.

Or maybe it is because AshBritt has some very powerful friends.

Their chief lobbyist is Ron Book, one of the most influential insiders in Tallahassee and along the Gold Coast.

The firm’s chief lawyer is state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Northwest Broward Democrat.

Jared’s father Mike Moskowitz, a well-known lawyer and former state Democratic Committee member, also represents AshBritt.

The history of this whole dispute has been seamy.

When activist Charlotte Greenbarg complained about AshBritt’s overbilling in 2009, she was kicked off the School Board’s Audit Committee.  Greenbarg had been on the committee 10 years.

The School Board this week voted to approve the settlement without comment.  The vote was unanimous.

Not one word of explanation of why they were accepting so much less money.  It is not like the AshBritt story didn’t receive a massive amount of publicity when it broke after the hurricane.

I guess they thought or hoped we’d forget.  This taxpayer didn’t.

Greenbarg e-mailed a comment about the School Board accepting so little money from AshBritt:

“Not one question/comment…That’s why the district is where it is (no $$$) and why several grand juries were convened.”

And this is the group that wants $1 billion more of your money!

One good place to start that massive request for more money: Some candor.


State Rep. Jared Moskowitz (left) and former Democratic Committee member Mike Moskowitz (right) with Randy Perkins, owner of AshBritt. They are appearing before the New Jersey Legislature last year after allegations AshBritt overcharged for Hurricane Sandy recovery. 


10 Responses to “Taxpayers Lose Again: Broward School Board’s $555k Bad Deal”

  1. count l f chodkiewicz chudzikiewicz says:

    I found mike moskowitzs photo interesting as he sat next to me at a local ft Lauderdale breakfast masquerading as a local businessman supporting the panthers request for 80 million dollars. After the breakfast we learned he was both a paid lobbyist for the panthers not from ft Lauderdale n Broward county mayor sharief who he bragged pays him high fees to represent her in her problems with unethically and illegally overcharging the government for social services her for profit company charges. That m. Moskowitz stands in back of larger Judy stern to lobby the press with his small size is a running joke at community breakfasts n lunches here in ft lauderdale

  2. N R Von Staden says:

    Now I know I won’tbe voting for the bond.

  3. Rinse and Repeat says:

    Junior made $1.4 million from AshBritt last year. That’s why he never shows up in Tallahassee, and can afford him million dollar home in Jim Waldman’s district. Smells so bad.


    State Rep. Jared Moskowitz was paid $1.430 million from AshBritt in 2012, according to his financial disclosure. It is an illustration of how much money there is in emergency recovery.

  4. Sam The Sham says:

    Thanks Buddy. This is the reason for true journalists.

    Is it misfeasance or malfeasance? Why do we always get such lousy elected representation in Broward County?

  5. Andrew Ladanowski says:

    @Sam Thank Buddy and Charlotte. No one noticed until Charlotte actually emailed Buddy. The sad part is no one cares. It’s only 700k. Buddy was kind enough to relay the information and provide additional information to the public.

  6. tell the truth says:

    Thank you Buddy for reporting this looser deal!

    lets not get screwed again please
    NO BOND MONEY if on Nov 2014 ballot

    a little refresher and its worse

    “….C&B, which is short for Crochet & Borel, was very busy in Broward during the weeks after Wilma. And the real drama for the company came not at the courthouse but at the Broward County School Board building across the street, where C&B received a million dollars for roofing work it never should have done.

    A couple of weeks after the devastating storm hit, School Board records reveal, Deputy Superintendent Michael Garretson authorized the work after a meeting with C&B representatives and their well-known lobbyist.
    The rushed nature of the award — there were no bids and no contract — might be forgiven because of the destruction wrought by Wilma. The problem was that C&B was neither prequalified as a contractor for the board nor licensed or insured to do any roofing work in Florida. In other words, the entire job fell outside the law. But that didn’t stop C&B from trying to charge the district at least twice for the services, according to board records.

    Some might call that gouging. The School Board, which has a long history of corruption in its construction department, calls it business as usual.

    “I’ve never seen it this bad,” one official in the School Board construction department told me when I asked about the C&B case. “The construction department has become a shell game, if you ask me. It’s not what you do around here; it’s who you know. And that’s the only reason they went with C&B, because somebody knew somebody.”

    C&B’s “somebody” was big-time lobbyist Ron Book, who is definitely a good man to have on your side when you’re looking to snare some taxpayers’ money. Perhaps the most influential lobbyist in South Florida, Book represented the company in the meeting with Garretson, construction contracts director Denis Hermann, and project manager Joe DeLillo.

    It was a rotten deal from the beginning, but when a School Board auditor took the case to the public corruption unit at the State Attorney’s Office, it was never investigated.

    The trail of records, however, indicates that millions of dollars may have been misspent. It also reveals a pattern of poor management by Garretson, who kowtows to powerful lobbyists and builders and at times shows little concern for laws and regulations. When challenged, he typically reacts with arrogance and bully tactics that only serve to obstruct the truth.

    Not exactly the kind of boss you want running the district’s construction department, which has a bloated budget of $3 billion.

    School Board records indicate that Garretson’s million-dollar meeting with Book occurred on November 8, 2005. Not a bad afternoon’s work for Book, a large contributor to School Board members’ campaigns. The lobbyist’s fee in this instance isn’t known, and Book didn’t return calls for comment.

    When C&B began submitting invoices to the board, the district’s cost estimator, Thomas Myers, discovered not only that the company wasn’t prequalified but also that it had no contract or state license for the roofing work. On top of that, he determined that the company was charging twice the normal rate for its work.

    “I’m quite surprised at this,” Myers wrote to School Board project manager Wayne Thrasher on January 19, 2006. “How can [C&B] be assigned work anyplace?”

    Soon, School Board auditor Dave Rhodes, a district watchdog who has been discovering bad business practices at the School Board for years, caught wind of the mess. Rhodes began questioning officials in emails that I obtained from the School Board.

    Because the C&B deal was neither proper nor legal, invoices submitted by C&B weren’t paid. “We have held all payments until we can clear the license issue,” senior project manager Jack Cooper wrote to Rhodes and Garretson.

    Of course, that issue couldn’t be “cleared” — C&B simply had no license. At that same time, though, another story was emerging from Garretson and his lieutenants: C&B was actually working for the board as a subcontractor for AshBritt, a large and well-known disaster-recovery firm based in Pompano Beach.

    AshBritt, which is also represented by Ron Book, had been authorized by the School Board to do $3.1 million worth of work in December 2005, about six weeks after Garretson authorized C&B to do its million dollars’ worth of work. C&B would be paid by AshBritt, Hermann informed Rhodes.
    “When did AshBritt execute a contract with [the School Board] and why did C&B Services directly invoice [the School Board]?” Rhodes asked Hermann in an email. “I think I am missing something here, please clarify.”…


  7. Just one vote says:

    I will not give my vote for a bond deal either.

  8. Becky Blackwood says:

    It appears Ash Britt was more willing to pay its’ lobbyist and attorneys then return the money to the School Board, which would have been far less.

    Further, who initially prepared and approved the over payments? I would be willing to wager they are still working for the School Board except for Mike Garretson who died and Jack Cooper who retired.

    A good place to start in getting qualified people in the construction and maintenance area would be in Human Resources. The Human Resources personnel who select “qualified” candidates have very little to no experience in determining if the potential candidates are qualified or not. Look at Building Officials Lee Martin and the building official before him. Martin had been indicted by a Grand Jury in Miami Dade County but charges were dropped because no one had been injured or died because of his errors in permitting erroneous plans that did not meet code. The building official before that did not have the appropriate license. Three other building officials who followed lied on their Building Code Administrator’s applications stating they had supervised inspectors before but had not; one even said he worked in an area of less than 50,000 people. These errors belong to the School Board upper management as well as the Department of Business and Professional Regulations who have not performed the statutory requirements of their office and do not look into the accuracy of the applicants information. One of those individuals is still performing as the Building Official presently. A public information request to the Department of Professional Regulations will confirm my statement. Be sure to look at the individual who certified the applicant did actually supervise building inspectors at the time. You will find that interesting. Until there is accountability at the School Board with actual penalties, nothing will ever change. Why not start with a School Board policy that has actual teeth in it? When someone files a complaint against another employee which results in their firing, and that complaint is found to be false, that complainant knows they will not be penalized. When someone makes an error that costs the District significant sums of money, why is that person allowed to keep their job?

  9. Brian Craig says:

    If we only got this kind of real reporting in the sun sentinel. The sentinel is about the size of my high school newspaper these days.

  10. Campaign Contributions says:

    Nora Rupert received a $500 contribution from Moskowitz, Mandell, Salim & Simowitz, P.A. Any relation to the Moskowitz’s mentioned in the article?

    5/1/2014 0:00 500 Moskowitz, Mandell, Salim & Simowitz, P.A.
    800 Corporate Drive, Suite 500 Fort Lauderdale FL 33334 CHE B Attorney


    It is his father’s law firm.