Gov. DeSantis suspends four Broward school board members for 'neglect of duty'
PARKLAND, Fla. - Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended four Broward School Board Members from office following the recommendations of the 20th Statewide Grand Jury to suspend these board members due to their incompetence, neglect of duty and misuse of authority.
The Grand Jury was impaneled in 2019 following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2018. It was tasked with examining school-related safety, use of funds for school safety initiatives, whether school officials committed fraud and underreported criminal activity.
The final report released last Friday pointed to board members Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray and Laurie Rich Levinson for mishandling safety initiatives like the SMART program approved in 2014 for safety and other renovations. Projects that began in 2016 are still in the construction phase.
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"It is my duty to suspend people from office when there is clear evidence of incompetence, neglect of duty, misfeasance or malfeasance," said Gov. DeSantis. "The findings of the Statewide Grand Jury affirm the work of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Commission. We are grateful to the members of the jury who have dedicated countless hours to this mission, and we hope this suspension brings the Parkland community another step towards justice. This action is in the best interest of the residents and students of Broward County and all citizens of Florida."
Parkland school shooting victims.
Tony Montalto is the president of Stand with Parkland, his 14-year-old daughter Gina was one of the students killed in the Parkland Shooting. He says the findings in the report are upsetting.
"We’re naturally a little bit angry. We're incredibly frustrated. And we think that every citizen and Broward County should be because this school board mismanaged our tax dollars and that mismanagement left our students and our teachers exposed to unsafe environments, not only at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but throughout the district.," Montalto said.
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He said this is an example of failures before the tragic shooting and after. The final report of the Grand Jury found four years after Parkland that a safety-related alarm that could have possibly saved lives at the school "was and is such a low priority that it remains uninstalled at multiple schools," and "students continue to be educated in unsafe, aging, decrepit, moldy buildings that were supposed to have been renovated years ago."
"It’s the constant reminder of the failures that led to the loss of my beautiful forever 14-year-old daughter, Gina, her 13 classmates and her three teachers," Montalto said.
Ryan Petty lost his 14-year-old daughter Alaina in the shooting. He’s also a member of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Commission. He says the families have waited years for this level of accountability.
"So, unfortunately, it took a grand jury and, it took the governor acting in his capacity as the governor to remove these negligent school board members from office. And hopefully that's the last time any of them will serve as school board members in the state of Florida," Petty said.
These suspensions are effective immediately.