Broward County School Board candidate warns against voting for runoff rival, suspended incumbent

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In the wake of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of four sitting Broward County School Board members last week, the runoff rival of a suspended Board member urged voters to support the certainty that he represents.

School Board candidate Allen Zeman is facing a runoff election in November against Donna Korn, one of the four Board members that DeSantis’ suspended from their offices Friday.

DeSantis was acting on the recommendation of a grand jury report that found the Board members failed to hold then-Superintendent Robert Runcie accountable for delaying school facilities — delays that might have cost the lives of those killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre of 17 people.

But the immediate issue is that no one knows what the Governor will do if Korn is elected. Korn received the most votes in Tuesday’s Primary, 30.5% to Zeman’s 30%, in a field of four candidates for the at large seat.

“You can choose a credible candidate … or you can take a chance and elect my opponent, who can be removed the day after she is elected,” Zeman said. “That would give the Governor two, two-year appointments to our local School Board.”

The Governor’s appointees to fill the seats of the other four suspended Board members are:

Torey Alston, the Governor’s appointee for an unexpired term on the Broward School Board, sitting in for Board member Patricia Good, whose term would have ended in 2024.

— Manual “Nandy” A. Serrano, member of the Florida Sports Foundation Board of Directors, and CEO and founder of Clubhouse Private Wealth, who replaced Laurie Rich Levinson, whose term would have ended in November.

— Ryan Reiter, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Director of Government Relations for Kaufman Lynn Construction, who replaced Board member Ann Murray, whose term would have ended in November.

— Kevin Tynan, a lawyer with Richardson and Tynan, who previously served on the Broward County School Board and South Broward Hospital District, who replaced Korn, at least until her current term ends in November.

“We have no further announcements to make at this time regarding potential further action,” Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for DeSantis wrote in an email.

Zeman appeared in front of the Broward County Government Center in Fort Lauderdale Monday with Lori Alhadeff, a current School Board member and mother of a slain Parkland student, Lori Parrish, a former School Board member and Property Tax Appraiser, and Rich Walker, Mayor of Parkland.

Alhadeff said that Zeman is clearly the better candidate given what the grand jury report says.

“When I brought an agenda item to fire Mr. Runcie, she chose to keep him on as Superintendent,” Alhadeff said of Korn. “She needs to be held accountable for that.”

DeSantis called the grand jury in response to the Parkland massacre. The grand jury’s subject has gone far beyond the reasons why Nikolas Cruz was able to go on a bloody rampage inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s 1200 Building. It put the Broward County School Board and its processes under a microscope after the Sun-Sentinel identified corruption and mismanagement relating to technology purchases and an $800 million construction bond to renovate schools.

The report was completed in April 2021 and has already resulted in criminal charges, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Former Superintendent Runcie resigned and was indicted for perjury. General Counsel Barbara Myrick also was arrested for charges related to perjury before the grand jury. And earlier, Tony Hunter, the district’s former chief information officer, was arrested for bid rigging and bribery charges to which he has pleaded not guilty.

The full report was not released until those Board members named in it had a chance to respond. Parrish said that Korn’s decision to file legal motions to keep the grand jury report closed for 16 months convinced her not to back Korn’s re-election effort.

“I believe in integrity and transparency,” Parrish said.

Korn could appeal her suspension with the Senate, should she be re-elected.

The grand jury also recommended the Governor remove Sen. Rosalind Osgood from the School Board, but she left the Board to run to represent Senate District 32 and won.

She told Florida Politics that she did not neglect her duty as the grand jury report said. She was the Chair of the Board when she stepped down.

“I didn’t neglect my duties,” she said. “I showed up and I worked hard every time, every day for the kids in this community.”

The Governor’s executive order issued Friday notes that the grand jury’s final report found that a safety-related fire alarm at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that could have saved lives during the shooting was part of the delayed improvements.

Controversy has erupted on a number of occasions when the Governor has suspended elected leaders. Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren is most recent example. DeSantis also removed Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes and Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher.

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