School Board Sullied By Double Standards

So the Broward County School Board just can't help but to persecute Becky Blackwood, a former supervisory building inspector who had the guts to criticize the sloppy and corrupt management at the board's construction department. As reported here, Blackwood prevailed against the district in court.

Now the dogs at the district have filed an appeal to Blackwood's legal victory, ensuring yet more waste of taxpayers' time and money and more payback for Blackwood, who was just doing her job. Blackwood, according to rank-and-file sources at the district, was both competent and ethical.

Those are two qualities not shared by many in school board management. Case in point: The screwed-up saga of school board building chief Ron Morgan. I wrote about how Morgan not only let his required CBO license lapse for months, but also misled the public about it (though he claims it was an honest mistake). I also found that he'd improperly signed off on the building permits of at least two elementary schools.

After that last post was published, the board's chief operating officer, Donnie Carter, designated consultant Wayne Smith to "perform Chief Building Official responsibilities" until a permanent chief is hired. Morgan, who has apparently finally passed the state tests, was demoted to an assistant chief's job. Consultant Wayne Smith is now fulfilling all duties of the chief.

But it gets worse. For three years, Morgan operated under a "provisional license" issued by the state (before he let is lapse in March). Now it looks like that license never should have been issued in the first place and that all the work he did -- all the school building permits he signed -- may have no legal standing at all.

According to state law at the time, Morgan was supposed to work under the "direct supervision" of a licensed administrator while he held the provisional license. He did not.

That would seem to indicate that the school board has been operating outside the law for more than three years. What a disgrace that would be, eh?

Only in counties where the population is under 75,000 would Morgan have been permitted to take on the top job, according to statutes. Broward County, of course, has more than 20 times that population. And this is where all this gets interesting. A school board source supplied the Pulp with a copy of Morgan's application for the provisional license, which he filled out in 2005. Part of that application included a section called "Population Verification." There, Morgan apparently checked a box indicating that he is employed in a county with "a population of less than 50,000."

I asked Morgan if he falsified his application. "I would have to look at my application," Morgan said.

You'd think Morgan would be knowledgable on this matter, since he acknowledges that the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation has investigated. He says the state came back with a finding of no probable cause that he'd violated any laws.

Did DBPR, notoriously lax, pull an SEC and drop the ball here? I'm trying to find that out and will report back later.

Regardless, it doesn't appear that Morgan ever should have been leading the school board's construction department and it's $3 billion budget. Morgan's boss, Carter. was asked about this at a February 5 audit committee meeting and said he would report back later.

We're waiting with bated breath. The question is why the school board couldn't bother to find a properly license leader. One veteran at the school board gave an answer: "It's not about building safe schools at the board, it's all about making sure the checks keep going out to the contractors."

Yes, and making sure that Becky Blackwood pays for having the audacity to point out what a disaster the construction department has become.

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman