School Board Construction Chief: These Boots Were Made for Kicking (Ass)

Let's see, the Broward County School Board construction department has been horribly mismanaged, has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars, and was at the heart of a federal criminal case that recently sent one elected official to prison. 

Make no mistake: The School Board is a monumental mess, and there is no leadership there to change it. Right now, it's basically the same School Board -- created in the evil laboratory of lobbyists Neil Sterling and Barbara Miller -- and the same untrustworthy superintendent, Jim Notter. 

So there's little hope of any meaningful reform until the elected dolts on the dais today are voted out and new blood comes in to change things. But Tom Lindner, the board's relatively new construction chief, sure made it sound like things were changing at a staff meeting last week. He went after the battered staff -- which has already withstood dozens of layoffs -- like a drill sergeant at times. The former Navy captain likes to talk tough. How tough? Look inside and read about bloody bulls, funeral wreaths for poor workers, and the ass-kicking boots he says he puts on in the morning.

On July 9, Lindner met with school construction staff to let them know how things were going to be. He stated the obvious about a lack of money to do anything (the construction budget has been gutted from billions to nearly nothing, and the district itself is swimming in $2 billion debt).

Here are some highlights taken from minutes of the meeting taken by a staffer (which have been confirmed as authentic by School Board sources):

-- When asked about possible further cuts of employees in the facilities department, Lindner is quoted as saying, "Have you guys ever been to a bullfight? Well, let me tell you, the bull doesn't come out fresh into the arena. Behind the scenes, there are people "poking" the bull and getting him mad and bleeding. That's what we are like at Facilities, and all the matador does is come with his sword and cape and finish him."

-- "Let me know if you can't do your job, because later I will not have a lifesaver to throw you later; what I will have is a flower wreath to take to your grave."

-- "We need to start redesigning some elementary schools and turning them into low-rent teachers' housing. I have been reading about things of this nature. I have not drunk the Kool-Aid here. Marko (SBBC general counsel) drank the Kool-Aid. He is a great person and a very knowledgeable attorney, but he has been here too long. I have been chewed up by Marko already, but it did not faze me since I have been chewed up in my previous military career by people with a much higher ranking, like Gens. Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf."

-- "If I have to start kicking ass, I have two boots, and I am ready to start using them. If I have to be the one who starts kicking, then we have a problem, since I will be doing your job."

Here's the full text of the minutes (misspellings included):

BRIEFING ON MANDATORY MEETING with THOMAS LINDNER July 9th, 2010.

Tom introduced himself to the meeting and stated that he wanted "for you to get a feel for who I am and share my thoughts with the team on where we are going. I am going to be here for at least another year. The Superintendent authorized the development of a new Organizational Chart showing the merger of Facilities and PPO, which will be approved in the middle of the Fiscal Year. I did not get more visible before because I did not wanted to be part of the decision making of the personnel cuts being made. There were already rumors labeling me as the "hatchet man". The department heads provided the recommendations for what they envision as the necessary cuts."

There are no more Capital funds, work is in progress to try and obtain the additional .25 mills from the local taxes. Therefore, the core of the work to be done is going to be Maintenance in nature. Most Unions already approved a five (5) days furlough; except for BTU, to prevent more Layoffs. There will be no more cuts in PPO. He also stated that, "we will be having another difficult year ahead of us". The impression given by these statements was that there will be no more cuts at PPO, but implied the possibility of more cuts at Facilities.

Have you guys ever been to a Bullfight? Well let me tell you, the Bull doesn't come out fresh into the arena. Behind the scenes there are people "poking" the Bull and getting him mad and bleeding. That's what we are like at Facilities, and all the Matador does is come with his sword and cape and finish him.

Regarding Training he stated "there has been a lot of rumble and misunderstanding on what the Training is to be provided under the Union Contract. Let me explain it to you; we will teach you the difference between Windows XP and Vista. But we will not teach you Windows. As a displaced employee you need to take it upon yourself to learn the new skill within the next 45 days. I want you to be successful, but not at the expense of the ones that are doing their jobs.

Let me know if you can't do your job, because later I will not have a lifesaver to throw you later; what I will have is a flower wreath to take to your grave.

We need to be on the same team. There are way too many silos that we need to break. Conference me if you have a problem. Conference me if you will be speaking with the newspapers about a problem, and that way I will be up to speed to speak with the newspaper afterwards. Identify a problem early on, not in crisis mode. Then a proper solution can not be achieved.

Accountability is going to be a critical issue. We are leaner and we need to take care of many things. If you can't come to work and have no sick time left, don't use PLV. Ask someone to donate you some time or apply for an FMLA. Don't abuse sick time and personal time. Follow the Contract language. These things will be monitored and addressed.

People will have to start thinking outside the box and start doing things that are not in their job description. We are going to have to be a faster and better team; better than the competition. The difference between us and them is that, we don't write the Campaigns (Political) contribution checks. There are six (6) Board member positions going for elections and there are twenty-two (22) candidates.

There will be a new normal. The face of the organization is changing. We are better than the Contractors because they don't care about the kids at school. I would give time off on school opening day as I did last year at PPO, so that you go witness the kids coming back to school and remember who we work for.

This is our team now. The on-going issues have become personal and that has got to change. I am asking for cooperation and sense of commitment. Help your fellow worker. Attitude is more important than knowledge. I value more the people who have the right attitude.

We are moving to Sawgrass and some moves are on-going at KCW.
     Q- When are we moving out of here?
     A- TL. We have to be out of here by April. My plan is to try to get out of here by February.

     Q-Are the FCM departments located at KCW to be included in this move?
     A- TL. This has not been decided yet. Property Management may remain at KCW. Chris Akagbosu has a lot of interaction with KCW personnel, so his department may stay there.

There are some positions being evaluated for job description changes, i.e. Shelley Meloni's position.  

Q- Will this affect budget?
     A- TL. Just a few positions are being assessed. It might have a minor budget impact. Times are lean, but we are not that broke.

Stop treating the Contractors like they are the Customer. These people should be jumping to make us happy. You (the employees) represent SBBC and the tax payers. Do the right thing, if not, you will be seating at the end of a long green table surrounded by Attorneys and there will be no glass of water for you to drink. You will be seating in the spot and is not a very pleasant position.

Let me fight your battles. If you convince me, I will take your matter to wherever it needs to be taken. I am OK with people thinking outside the Box.

We need to start re-designing some Elementary schools and turning them into Low Rent Teachers Housing. I have been reading about things of this nature. I have not drunk the Kool-Aid here. Marko (SBBC General Counsel) drank the Kool-Aid. He is a great person and a very knowledgeable Attorney, but he has been here too long. I have been chewed up by Marko already, but it did not faced me since I have been chewed up in my previous military career by people with a much higher ranking like Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf.

    Q- It sounds really good that you with your discipline and military background are willing to exhibit some leadership around here. Something that have been missing for quite some time, are you planning to review the current lack of clear Procedures and Standards of operations in order to ensure uniformity and finish with the culture of Management by Intimidation due to the lack of clear directives by Untrained Senior Managers?

     A- TL. We are going to implement some operational changes, i.e. establish a single point of document control, but I believe that all of those procedures you are referring to should be given to someone who is just starting up in their career (like when a high school graduate joins in as new soldier) not to people with the level of experience that you all have. I have seen your resumes and there are very highly qualified individuals here.

Comment- my only concern Mr. Lindner is that the lack of clear directions leaves too much room for interpretation. Example; you give $50K and ask me to get you a car. You don't provide any particulars as to the size, the number of passengers, the motor power, etc...If I come back with a KIA, I may have not gotten what you wanted or needed and time and resources just got wasted.

A statement was made that some Middle Managers, PM III's have started doing some review on processes that can be streamlined. Then a comment was made from someone in Design stating" do not forget to include the Design department in this streamlining process meetings. When a change is made in the operations of one department, it usually triggers operational changes in the department that interact with them."

Mr. Lindner made the assertion that some work will be given to the Design department and some work of the same nature to an outside vendor. This will be done to see how much time it takes and set some "benchmarks". The Design department is expected to deliver at the same speed. If not, then some other alternatives will have to be explored.

But don't get me wrong, I will also be expecting the Design Consultants to start delivering on a timely manner. No more giving somebody a project to replace some windows and four (4) years later still no drawings available. No more the excuse that the Consultant does SBBC work when there is down time and the real projects are slow. If I have to start kicking ass, I have two boots; and I am ready to start using them. If I have to be the one who starts kicking then we have a problem, since I will be doing your job.

Someone stated; the Design department has been treated like the "step child" of FC&M for a very long time and we have a very high caliber of Design professionals that know their job as it relates to Educational Facilities. We should not continue to be disregarded and mistreated the way we have been.

Tom replied, you have to start the changes from within. You have to create your own synergy for change, like for example what Lee Iaccoca did in Detroit. The Executive Director position for this department will be advertised this Monday, and then you will have a new leader to assist you.

Tom Lindner was reminded that the constant shifting priorities by the Board Members, Area Offices and anyone that felt that had some power caused disruptions and waste of resources on a regular basis at the Facilities Department. To this the reply was that the Board members were not supposed to be calling employees to impose their priorities and if that was happening, to advise him.

Someone mentioned that there will be no IT technical support people on site anymore and this was concerning. He said that between now and the time FC&M was moved to Sawgrass, he was willing to be without an on-site technician. This will change when the move to Sawgrass is completed.

Then he spoke about his background, spoke about his family, and himself. He retired from the Navy as a Captain in 1997, after serving for 24 years. He is married and has 6 kids. His younger son will graduate this year from Stoneman Douglas and just past navy seal test. His wife is a lobbyist for JM Enterprises.  He collects a military pension, likes motorcycles, and owns a couple but is not great at fixing them.

One of his brothers is a Welder and builds motorcycles. His father is a retired Teacher and his mother was a school Principal. He is originally from Arizona. When he left the Navy, he got a job as a Project Manager although he has had no previous experience in Construction, but his attitude got him the job. He worked for JM Enterprises building facilities. After he left JM he started working for SBBC in PPO .....And finished the meeting stating, don't loose your sight of who your customer is?


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >