FORT LAUDERDALE—The day one of the Broward School District's top administrators was to appear before a federal grand jury about controversial construction spending, School Board members expressed how they feel about being dragged into the ongoing investigation of public corruption throughout the county.
Board members said Thursday they feel frustrated and powerless because the community is judging the body as a whole for the actions of one -- Beverly Gallagher. She was arrested last week in the first wave of an investigation that has resulted in the arrests of two other politicians and criminal charges against five businessmen.
The workshop was held the same day a federal subpoena ordered Michael Garretson, the deputy superintendent for the district's facilities and construction, to appear before the grand jury. He was to bring documents related to controversial repair work performed on portable classroom roofs after Hurricane Wilma struck in 2005.
But his appearance, like that of all subpoenaed witnesses, was postponed until next week. On Wednesday Garretson ordered top facilities and construction officials and the chief auditor to turn over all "files, e-mails, computer reports, correspondence, notes and every other piece of paper you may have concerning ASHBRITT & C&B. Leave nothing out."
Superintendent James Notter said Thursday the district compiled more than 8,000 pages on the companies. District auditors delivered a scathing review of that record earlier this year.
The audit stated AshBritt did not do some of the work it billed for, and Texas-based contractor C&B Services overbilled for work on the classrooms. The audit recommended the district demand a $765,608 refund from AshBritt.
Thursday night, the Facilities Task Force, a school district citizen watchdog committee, voted to ask the School Board to stop using a controversial committee that qualifies and selects construction companies until it is scrutinized "with unfettered public input."
Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's Office also delivered subpoenas to several Miramar staffers to appear before the grand jury in connection with the federal investigation, but city leaders are being tight-lipped about which staffers were singled out.
The grand jury is reviewing evidence involving Fitzroy Salesman, a former Miramar commissioner, Gallagher and Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, who were all arrested Sept. 23.
Salesman, 52, who lost his bid for re-election in March, is charged with fraud, extortion and bribery. He is accused of accepting money from undercover agents seeking construction work from the city of Miramar.
Like School Board members, Miramar commissioners say they're getting backlash from residents, who say they distrust elected officials.
Eggelletion, 60, was charged with fraud and money laundering for allegedly scheming to move illicit money through the Bahamas.
Gallagher, 51, faces fraud, extortion and bribery charges. She is accused of taking money from undercover FBI agents posing as contractors seeking lucrative school construction work.
Both she and Eggelletion were swiftly suspended from office.
"We've got some big problems," School Board member Stephanie Kraft said during Thursday's workshop. What started out as a discussion of how Notter's performance will be evaluated quickly turned into a first public discussion of Gallagher's arrest and removal from the board.
"I think we need some help with those," Kraft said, "whether that's professional development or therapy."
Staff Writers Paula McMahon and Scott Wyman contributed to this report.