Embattled Florida school superintendent offers to step down
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida school superintendent charged with lying to a grand jury investigating circumstances surrounding the 2018 massacre on one of his campuses offered to step down Tuesday, hours after releasing a video statement saying he would be vindicated and would not resign.
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said during a meeting with the school board that it was clear a majority of school board members didn’t want him remaining in his position while the case against him is resolved. The board could take formal action at its next meeting on Thursday.
In his video statement earlier Tuesday, Runcie did not specifically address the accusation by state prosecutors that he lied when he testified four weeks ago before the statewide grand jury. The panel was investigating issues stemming from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead.
Instead, he repeated his attorney’s contention that the indictment makes “politics more important than the interest of our students.”
“I am confident that I will be vindicated and I intend to continue to carry out my responsibilities as superintendent with the highest level of integrity and moral standards as I have done for nearly 10 years,” Runcie said in the nearly three-minute video.
The grand jury indicted him last week with perjury in an official proceeding, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Gov. Ron DeSantis empaneled the grand jury shortly after he took office in 2019 to examine safety issues at Florida’s schools. He had campaigned on removing Runcie from office but Florida governors can only remove elected local officials accused of wrongdoing. Runcie was appointed by the Broward County school board and only its members can remove him.
Two issues the grand jury investigated are whether Broward County school officials misappropriated millions of dollars from a bond measure partially aimed at improving campus safety and whether officials intentionally underreported on-campus crimes committed by students. The grand jury concluded its work earlier this month, but its final report has not been released.
Since the shooting, Runcie and Broward County district administrators have been accused by critics of lying about school crime rates and discipline problems in official reports. For example, Stoneman Douglas reported zero incidents of bullying among its 3,200 students between 2014 and 2017 and three incidents of vandalism.
To convict Runcie of perjury, prosecutors would need to show that he knowingly lied and that any misstatements were not simply mistakes.
According to a court document filed late Monday, prosecutors contend Runcie lied before the grand jury when they asked him what he knew about the criminal case against his former technology chief, Tony Hunter. The grand jury indicted Hunter earlier this year on charges he rigged a contract for a vendor in exchange for a bribe. Hunter has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Runcie lied when he repeatedly testified that he had not contacted anyone about the Hunter case and his only knowledge of the contract was from a presentation given years earlier.
In fact, prosecutors said, Runcie had contacted one or more people about the contract just days earlier as he prepared to testify.
Runcie committed “multiple barefaced falsehoods and obstructive statements under oath,” prosecutors wrote.
Runcie is scheduled to be arraigned on May 12.