14 public employees fired in Broward Co. privatization plan

In-house project managers let go in plan to privatize facilities department

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A controversial plan to privatize the Broward County facilities department came up for a vote on Wednesday, which numerous critics say not only cost 14 public employees their jobs but is costing taxpayers more money to replace with a private corporation.

"The exact same job is now being done by a contractor at two to three times the cost," said Broward Teachers Union official Virgil Cruz.

The school board made the move Wednesday to privatize the long-troubled facilities department at a cost of $1.75 million to cover the cost of 10 private employees, provided by the massive URS Corporation.

"The project manager was probably making about $90,000 including benefits. What URS is going to charge is probably about $180,000, which is twice as much," said Steve Feldman of the Broward Teacher's Union.

The board fired 14 in-house project managers who were making more than a half-million dollars less than the cost of the new contract.

Local 10's Bob Norman asked the man leading the privatization charge, Superintendent Robert Runcie, about that.

"It does look like you're paying more for less or that taxpayers are paying more for less on this," Norman said to Runcie.

"That's not correct," said Runcie. "Again, there are other resources that come along with that and I would say it's not about numbers, it's about getting the right level of talent and expertise."

"How do we know that these URS people are going to be the right people?" asked Norman.

"We'll screen the resources as necessary and if they don't have the right people, we'll make adjustments," said Runcie.

The school board was expected to approve the contract with URS on Wednesday despite the questions.

"But these 14 project managers were never tied to any wrongdoing," said Norman.

"This is not about project mangers," Runcie said.

"Well, they're the ones that lost their jobs," said Norman.

"I get that, but I've got to do what is in the best interest of this district and the taxpayers," said Runcie.