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Don't Shoot the Messenger

God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board.

-- Mark Twain

Well the "blue-ribbon committee" of muckety-mucks -- Bob Butterworth, Jack Seiler, and W. George Allen -- have finally put out their final report to help clean up and bring more transparency to the Broward County School Board.

As I write this, the board is having a workshop on the matter. It started at 1 p.m. but if you wanted to voice your opinion about the report, though, you're out of luck. No public input is allowed.

Listen, there are some good suggestions in the report. A limit of three four-year terms is a good one; we can never allow another monstrosity like Dr. Robert "Bob" Parks to fester for decades again. Here's a link to the report if you'd like to read it. We can discuss the nuts and bolts later, but there's one recommendation that looks perfectly reasonable that could have a very unseemly ulterior motive. It is:

"Create an independent Auditor's Office which answers directly to the School Board."

The reason I point this out is that it seems to be a blatant attempt by the committee to fix something that very pointedly is not broken. School Board Auditor Pat Reilly has, in fact, been one of the very few bright spot in the irresponsible, self-serving, debt-incurring morass of corruption that is the School Board. Basically, putting Reilly under the whim of the elected board members -- who are financed and directed by lobbyists and special interests -- is not the answer.

Remember when Reilly's office put out the Ashbritt audit alleging that the company, represented by mega-lobbyist Ron Book, had ripped off Broward taxpayers of $765,000? The board was outraged at the news.

Only it wasn't at Ashbritt. It was at the fact that the audit was in the media. Stephanie Kraft (what the hell is she still doing in office?) railed at the auditors. So did Bob Parks and others.  

If Reilly had been serving at the impulse of the perfected idiots (if Twain's adage is to be believed) on the board, they might have voted him right out of his job at that time.

At one of the public hearings, committee member Bob Butterworth voiced his opinion that the School Board needs to stay out of the "news." That's back-asswards. The board needs to be in the news and every misstep must be reported in detail.

There is nothing that the likes of Kraft and Parks would like better than to hold sway over the auditor. Right now the auditor answers to the superintendent and that has worked OK for many years. Interestingly, the committee's report, which doesn't have anybody's name on it, addresses this problem: "However, given past regards expressed by the School Board Members, a checks and balances system should be created so that a dismissal of the Chief Auditor will not occur on every whim of the School Board."

Yes, and how about not giving the board members any chance at all of pulling off that kind of coup?

There may be something even more nefarious at work here. Why is the committee proposing to "create" an auditor's office? Why not just propose bringing the existing auditor's office under the purview of the board?

Is this a way to install a puppet in the position rather than a hard-hitting auditor who is doing his job?

Wouldn't it be priceless if the only person to lose their job as a result of the blue-ribbon committee were to be Reilly, one of the few people at the School Board who has tried to clean it up all along?

That possibility is speculation based on the language of the report, but don't put it past these people. The point is that we need to make sure this doesn't happen. Nip it in the bud (even though the public is shut out of today's meeting). Better yet: Make sure that this current board -- with Kraft and Parks still sitting on the dais -- doesn't vote on the new ethics reforms at all. Let the post-November-election board make the decision. Why should the group that helped bring the district into a state of public chaos be trusted to fix anything?

Don't forget that this is the board that sold out the future for their lobbyist and construction industry friends, leaving us $2 billion in debt and loaded with empty classroom seats.

Inside after the jump, just for fun, see the before-and-after photographs of one of our favorite School Boarders. Call it the Pulp,  Extreme Makeover Edition.


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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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