Head of major school district arrested on perjury charge

Surveillance footage from Parkland, Florida, school shooting

The chief of one of the largest school districts in the nation, Broward County schools in Florida, has been arrested on a charge of perjury.

The Sun-Sentinel reported Supt. Robert Runcie was arrested “as part of a statewide grand jury probe into the district,” as was district general counsel Barbara Myrick.

The count against Runcie is a third-degree felony, while Myrick on accused of unlawful disclosure of statewide grand jury proceedings, also a felony, the report said.

“Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Runcie, 59, and Myrick, 72, for their testimony before the grand jury, which was impaneled to investigate possible failures in following school-related safety laws and mismanaging funds solicited for school safety initiatives,” the report said.

The actual details of the accusations, as part of grand jury proceedings, were not released.

The grand jury has been working since 2019 and originally was to review safety procedures in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, but it later was expanded to include corruption and mismanagement, too.

The investigation previously resulted in the arrest of then-Chief Information Officer Tony Hunter who was accused of bid rigging and bribery.

He allegedly directed a $17 million tech contract to a friend, and has since pleaded not guilty.

Rosalind Osgood, the head of the district’s board, said it will continue to operate as usual under “the district’s leadership team.”

The report said Runcie’s indictment charges he gave untruthful testimony to the grand jury regarding the mandates of school-related safety laws, fraud in that state funds for safety programs were accepted, but those programs were not accomplished, mismanagement by diverting funds from bonds approved for safety efforts and underreporting criminal activity.

The Miami New Times reported the investigation was launched at least partly because of issues that arose following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

At the Daily Wire was a report that Runcie was college friends with Arne Duncan, the secretary of education for Barack Obama.

“When Duncan ran the Chicago public schools, he named Runcie head of the district’s IT department. With a letter of recommendation from Duncan, Runcie then became superintendent of Broward, the sixth-largest school district in the country,” the report said.

The report said Duncan also appointed Robert Runcie’s brother, James Runcie, to lead the department’s Federal Student Aid office.

That office, according to a Judicial Watch report, was the site of “pervasive fraud and corruption… including skirting federal rules to hire friends and family and hefty off-the-books cash bonuses.”

The report said James Runcie gave himself $443,000 in bonuses while improper payments by his office totaled $6 billion.

Robert Runcie’s operations in Florida involved setting up a new plan in the schools that did not require schools to notify law enforcement – even in cases of felonies.

The publication said reported infractions plummeted but the schools were no safer.

And Runcie convinced taxpayers to approve an $800 million bond issue for safety, but a government watchdog reported over four years after approval, the district spent only 5% of the funds on safety.

The shooting happened when Nikolas Cruz, a student, allegedly brought a rifle to the school and killed 17 people, injuring another 17.

His case has not yet come to trial. His defense lawyers have stated he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors have so far kept the death penalty option open.

One parent of a slain 14-year-old, Tony Montalto, is chief of the victims’ family group Stand With Parkland and is decided on the issue.

“The option for a long life was not given to our children and spouses — it was taken that day,” Montalto said, according to the AP. “Society in general should demand that someone who attacked the most vulnerable, our children, at their school, a place of learning, should be held ultimately accountable. Our families have already paid the ultimate price.”

The report said Cruz “had a well-documented history of mental problems, including an obsession with violence and death, before the shooting rampage when he was 19.”

Other fallout from the tragedy includes that Sheriff Scott Israel was removed from office by the governor, the school security officer has been charged with 11 counts including child neglect for not entering the school to confront Cruz, a commission recommended that teachers be trained and armed in schools, and the legislature adopted a law allowing that.

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