'Rogue' schools construction chief resigns

Tom Lindner resigns from Broward County Public Schools post

Published On: Dec 03 2012 03:32:38 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 03 2012 07:03:13 PM EST
PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. -

Alleging "rogue activities," Broward Schools Supt. Robert Runcie moved to fire one of his most controversial deputies, construction chief Tom Lindner. Instead, the combative Lindner agreed to resign Monday, Runcie said.

In an administrative complaint, Runcie accused Lindner of failing to communicate properly, failing to clean up the construction department, and undertaking "rogue activities," including secretly refurbishing his office.

I've also obtained invoices that show that Lindner engineered more than $1 million in payouts to Royal Concrete Concepts for a canceled maintenance building project that didn't have a valid contract. The payments came after Runcie killed the project following a Local 10 investigation that uncovered waste and mismanagement.

Runcie confirmed that the money was paid to Royal Concrete after he canceled the contracts and that it was done without his knowledge.

"It's under review," he said.

After the Local 10 investigation, an ensuing internal school board audit determined that the work that had been done to date was wasn't even permitted and there wasn't a valid contract in place. Then last October, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the project as part of a statewide grand jury corruption probe. From FDLE:

"The invoices submitted by Royal Concrete were for payment of these units that were manufactured and assembled without a valid contract, without the necessary approved plans, without any inspections having been completed .... Royal Concrete also failed to apply for DCA mandated insignias which when issued stipulate that all necessary approvals had been acquired and all inspections and quality control measures have been successfully complied with," investigators wrote. "In essence, Royal Concrete was attempting to be compensated for work that was not contractual, constructed with plans that were never approved, work that was never inspected, and a finished product that had not been issued insignias by the DCA as required by the Florida administrative code. In other words, the invoicing for this product constitutes an alleged fraud."

In January, Runcie terminated the project, saying that it was "time to cut our losses" on the botched building. Yet in May, Lindner again submitted invoices to pay Royal Concrete Concepts more than $1 million for the disputed work -- and again he claimed the work was legitimate despite the findings of the school board's own auditors and the FDLE.

The invoices were initially stopped but then a school board attorney, Thomas Cooney, approved the payments based on the go-ahead from Lindner and two of his subordinates.

School board members, who also demanded that the project be stopped and payments cease, were never notified of the payments. When I told School Board Member Nora Rupert about it this morning, she said she wants answers.