State investigating Broward school's project

Bob Norman Channel 10 www.local10.com (See the video)

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie attended his first audit committee meeting today. And boy did he get a show.

Chief Auditor Pat Reilly found a number of "irregularities" in a controversial $5 million maintenance building project -- including a lack of a valid contract to do the work, a lack of approvals and inspections for done, and some funny-business paperwork. On top of that, it was revealed that the state's Department of Community Affairs was investigating the project.

Schools construction chief Tom Lindner reacted by criticizing ... the auditors. And members of the audit committee gave Lindner -- who just received a $30,000 raise by Runcie -- a dressing down. Veteran audit committee member Hank Mack scolded Lindner for "bashing auditors."

"Tom, if we have to beat you to death we’re going to change this negative culture you got,” said Mack.

Lindner has been telling the school board that stopping the project would cost taxpayers $2 million in fees to the contractor, West Palm Beach-based Royal Concrete Concepts. Reilly said the state has determined the prefabricated walls the company poured off-site -- without a contract or legally mandated inspections -- are null and void in Florida.

After a charged discussion, Runcie seemed to be leaning toward an opinion on the project.

“We've got to make sure we maximize every penny we have," said Runcie. "If this is a project that doesn’t appear to have a good disposition we have to cut our losses early and move on.”

The audit report will be submitted to the school board, which will decide whether or not to kill the project.