Broward County School Board Deputy Superintendent Michael Garretson contacted the Pulp this afternoon and had one very strong reaction to information filed in the federal complaint against School Board Member Beverly Gallagher.
Gallagher told undercover FBI agents that she had lined up Garretson, who oversees the School Board's construction and facilities department, to vote for Pirtle Construction in her attempt to rig a School Board committee's vote for a $70 million renovation project at Hollywood Hills High School.
"She's lying," said Garretson, shortly after he was interviewed by an FBI agent in his office today. "Obviously she took money from someone, and she made it sound like she did something with me, and it's a bold-faced
lie. I'm a nasty little Irishman, and nobody tells me how to vote. It didn't happen. It's a goddamned lie."
In the December 18 vote, Garretson did vote for Pirtle, with a high score of 95 points. His second-place vote went to Balfour Beatty Construction, which he gave 93 points. Gallagher told undercover FBI agents that she had asked Garretson to vote for Pirtle for the job. After Pirtle won the recommendation from the committee, the undercover agents, posing as construction lobbyists, paid her $6,000 in cash.
Garretson said Gallagher probably figured that Pirtle would get the job because out of 12 projects in that cycle, the company, one of the most prolific school builders in the county, had been shut out.
"I could have predicted that as a blind man," Garretson said. "You had new companies like Suffolk that never had worked with the School Board getting projects, and this was the last job that came up. I could have predicted that it was Pirtle as well. You didn't need to be a genius to predict that."
He said he told FBI Special Agent Kevin Griffin the same thing when he questioned him today about 2 p.m. Also present was a Homeland Security agent, representing FEMA. "I told them I had no intention of taking flying lessons if that's what they were there for," Garretson quipped.
Garretson said that he had no idea Gallagher was under federal investigation and that this morning's news came as a shock. He said the district's construction department is going to look at all Qualification Selection Committee votes involving Gallagher and that everyone on those committees will be questioned as to whether any of their votes were ever influenced by anyone, including himself.
"One of the things we're doing right now is we're checking all the voting records," said Garretson. "We're going to see who matched up with [Gallagher] and who didn't match up with her. We're going to look at every QSEC meeting she participated in and see what staff may or may not have voted with her."
He said they are going to supply the information they compile to the FBI.
Gallagher also set up a meeting between Garretson and undercover FBI agents in February 2008, promising that he would help the agents prequalify their company. Gallagher was paid a bribe for setting up that meeting as well.
Garretson said he remembers Gallagher setting up the meeting, but he said he never did any favors for the company.
"There was no there there with this company that came in," said Garretson. "There was no Dun & Bradstreet, no audit statements. The guys went away. I said, 'You can't be prequalified. You don't have the stuff to be prequalified.' They had nothing. They had no proof of their existence, and they never got prequalified."