On February 14, 2007, Broward School Board construction czar Michael Garretson chose building contractor Weitz Co. as the No. 1 firm for a cafeteria renovation project that was good for a $37 million contract.
Now that's what you might call a sweet Valentine.
Nine months later, in November 2007, Garretson's nephew, Mike Mallory, got a job at Weitz as an assistant project manager. I asked Garretson yesterday at the board meeting if he helped the 26-year-old Mallory get the job.
"No," he said. "You're talking about a young man basically answering phones, working as a receptionist."
"I thought he was a project manager," I said.
"Assistant project manager, but he was basically a receptionist," Garretson said.
Did Mallory list Garretson as a reference for the job?
"Yes, he used me as a reference," Garretson said. "Give the kid a break. He needed a job and he
got a job."
It may not be that simple. For one, the job given to the 26-year-old Mallory might be viewed as a return from Weitz on the school board work. And once Mallory got the job, which he reportedly left about two months ago, Garretson kept voting as chairman of the Qualification Selection Committee on jobs that Weitz was bidding on. Garretson countered that he didn't vote Weitz No. 1 (as was the case in the Hollywood Hills renovation project allegedly rigged by federally charged former School Board Member Beverly Gallagher). When prodded, he did say that he may have voted Weitz as his favored company for a renovation project involving Fort Lauderdale High School (a bid Weitz won last year). I am working on determing whether that's true.
Garretson also said he was old friends with Rick Kolb, an executive for Weitz, which has offices in Hollywood and West Palm Beach and is based in Des Moines, Iowa.Garretson worked with Kolb at his previous job in the private sector with prison builder Correction Services Inc. and also worked with Kolb's iconic mom, Anne Kolb of nature center fame, when he was director of planning for Broward County when she was a commissioner. As it happens, Kolb was made the construction manager for all of the company's Florida operations in November 2007, the same month Garretson's nephew was hired by the firm.
Garretson said his personal ties to the company, which has an offices in Hollywood and West Palm Beach and is based in Des Moines, played no role when he helped the firm get tens of millions of dollars of work with the school board.
But I'm pretty sure he should have abstained from voting on Weitz considering his personal ties and the fact that his nephew worked for the company.
More coming on this one, I'm sure.