(The Center Square) – Florida’s second highest-paid public school official spent some time in jail Wednesday morning after being arrested on charges stemming from a two-year state investigation.
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and General Counsel Barbara Myrick were arrested Wednesday at their homes after both were indicted on third-degree felony charges.
Runcie, 59, who leads Florida’s second-largest and the nation’s seventh-largest public school district, was arrested on a charge of perjury in an official proceeding.
Myrick, 72, the district’s lead attorney, was arrested for unlawful disclosure of statewide grand jury proceedings. Myrick has been a district attorney since 2002 and its general counsel since 2016, earning $220,000 annually.
They were arrested by Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents following sealed indictments handed down by a grand jury that do not detail the charges.
The grand jury was impaneled in 2019 to review school safety policies in the wake of the Valentine’s Day 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, which is in Broward County.
During those reviews, the probe expanded to address district corruption and mismanagement, including allegations of “unnecessary travel” and “lobbying activities” by Runcie.
The charges are likely related to January’s arrest of former district chief information officer Tony Hunter on bid-rigging and bribery charges. Prosecutors say Hunter directed a $17 million technology contract to a friend. He’s pleaded not guilty.
According to grand jury’s bill of indictment, while testifying before the panel March 31 and April 1, Runcie “did make a false statement” that he “did not believe to be true.”
The indictment does not identify what “false statement” Runcie made but says the discussion involved four questions:
- “whether refusal or failure to follow the mandates of school-related safety laws, such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, results in unnecessary and avoidable risk to students across the state.
- whether public entities committed – and continue to commit – fraud and deceit by accepting state funds conditioned on implementation of certain safety measures while knowingly failing to act.
- whether school officials committed – and continue to commit – fraud and deceit by mismanaging, failing to use, and diverting funds from multimillion-dollar bonds specifically solicited for school safety initiatives.
- whether school officials violated – and continue to violate – state law by systematically underreporting incidents of criminal activity to the Department of Education.”
Runcie has led the district since 2011 and is Florida’s second-highest paid public school superintendent with an annual salary of $356,000 to manage 353 schools and 271,852 students.
Miami-Dade School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s is the state’s highest-paid school superintendent. He leads the state’s largest – and nation’s fifth-largest – school district with 357,249 students and 528 schools.
Questions about Runcie’s activities surfaced in 2019 when an OpenTheBooks.com analysis said his “excessive travel, salary, perks, benefits and padded pension plan” cost taxpayers $564,000 “in 2019 alone.”
In a July 2019 Forbes’ column, OpenTheBooks.com CEO & Founder Adam Andrzejewski wrote, “Following the shootings, Runcie aggressively interjected himself into the legislative fight,” traveling to Washington, D.C. to participate in “March For Our Lives.”
Yet, Andrzejewski said, during Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission hearings, “Runcie admitted even basic security measures of ‘hard-corners,’ ‘Code-Red,’ and emergency code policies still hadn’t been updated” 10 months after the shooting.
Broward County School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood Wednesday assured the district would “operate as normal” until further notice.
The school board “will provide transparency, accountability and integrity as we continue to focus on delivering the highest-quality educational experience for our students, teachers and staff,” she said, without mentioning if Runcie and Myrick will remain in their jobs.