Gov. DeSantis removes Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray, and Laurie Rich Levinson from office. Former school board member Rosalind Osgood was also recommended for removal by the grand jury. She is now a Florida state senator and no longer subject to the governor’s executive suspension authority.
By Kevin Deutsch
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday suspended four Broward School Board members, just days after a state grand jury probing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting recommended they be removed from office.
A written announcement from DeSantis’ office said he issued an executive order suspending elected school board members Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray, and Laurie Rich Levinson from office “due to their incompetence, neglect of duty, and misuse of authority.”
Four years after the February 14, 2018, shooting at MSD, the grand jury’s fourth and final report this month found that an emergency alarm at MSD “could have possibly saved lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School” but “was and is such a low priority that it remains uninstalled at multiple schools.”
The grand jury also found that “students continue to be educated in unsafe, aging, decrepit, moldy buildings that were supposed to have been renovated years ago,” the report states.
The announcement from the governor’s office called the school board members’ failures “inexcusable” and claimed they had “shown a pattern of emboldening unacceptable behavior, including fraud and mismanagement, across the district.”
These suspensions took effect immediately under DeSantis’ executive order.
Former school board member Rosalind Osgood was also recommended for removal by the grand jury, but she is now a Florida state senator and no longer subject to the governor’s executive suspension authority.
“It is my duty to suspend people from office when there is clear evidence of incompetence, neglect of duty, misfeasance or malfeasance,” DeSantis said. “The findings of the Statewide Grand Jury affirm the work of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Commission. We are grateful to the members of the jury who have dedicated countless hours to this mission, and we hope this suspension brings the Parkland community another step towards justice. This action is in the best interest of the residents and students of Broward County and all citizens of Florida.”
To replace the suspended board members, DeSantis appointed four new members.
They are, according to profiles provided by the governor’s office:
— Torey Alston, former Commissioner of the Broward County Board of County Commissioners.
— Manual Serrano, a member of the Florida Sports Foundation Board of Directors and CEO and founder of Clubhouse Private Wealth.
— Ryan Reiter, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and director of government relations for Kaufman Lynn Construction.
— Kevin Tynan, an attorney with Richardson and Tynan, who previously served on the Broward County School Board and South Broward Hospital District.
The grand jury spent three years probing the mass shooting at MSD that killed 17 people and wounded 17 others. They were asked to examine four issues pertaining to school safety, including whether public entities and school officials committed fraud and deceit by mismanaging funds devoted to school safety.
In its scathing final report, the grand jury found that the suspended board members and Osgood mismanaged the county’s SMART Program, a multimillion-dollar bond specifically solicited for school safety and renovation initiatives.
The same grand jury previously indicted former Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie on perjury charges in April 2021. The school board members suspended by DeSantis had all lent their support to Runcie, who left office in August 2021.
The grand jury accused Runcie and the school board of using “fraud and deceit” to bungle the execution of the SMART program. The board mismanaged taxpayer money and failed to renovate unsafe schools, forcing students to learn “in decrepit, moldy, unsafe buildings,” the report states.
The grand jury also criticized the school district for failing to install the upgraded fire alarm cited by DeSantis’ office.
The alarm upgrade was deemed a “top-priority item” in the district’s 2014 SMART bond project but was not installed prior to the mass shooting.
“While we do not have any evidence to outright declare that the combination of inaccurate data reporting, antipathy toward law enforcement, facile falsehoods by administration officials, or the astonishing mismanagement of SMART safety projects led directly to the MSD tragedy, neither can we say they played no role in creating the darkness in which this malignancy grew,” the grand jury report states. “It is readily apparent that the toxic combination of these factors has, and continues to, put Broward County students at risk.”
- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.