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Let's talk controversy, Brow board chair says

Broward School Board members have already admitted they need to work on restoring faith in the board. Now Chairwoman Maureen Dinnen has proposed a list of topics her colleagues should discuss in light of last month's arrest of suspended Board member Beverly Gallagher in a federal corruption sting.

In a memo to Superintendent Jim Notter dated Monday, Dinnen said the board should address:

--The role of audits in the school district in general, and more specifically an audit released earlier this year that says AshBritt and another contractor overbilled some $765,000 in classroom repairs after Hurricane Wilma -- something AshBritt denies;
--The way the district qualifies and picks contractors;
--How much space the district has for students;
--The reasons for building project delays, and the costs incurred by those delays, and
--The purchase of property referred to as "swamp land."

The five areas of concern have frequently been raised in newspaper articles and blog posts, particularly in the weeks after Gallagher's arrest.

Some on the board criticized district auditors for suggesting fraud or collusion might have taken place in the AshBritt report – though board members softened their tone after federal agents asked questions about the audit. Earlier this week, Board member Ann Murray asked Notter to suspend the committee that recommends contractors.

The board has taken heat for having too many empty seats in some schools given Broward’s declining enrollment and for allowing too many change orders to construction projects. And the swamp land refers to the purchase several years ago of property in Gallagher’s district in Southwest Ranches that was deemed unusable to build a new high school – West Broward High, eventually built in Pembroke Pines.

"Because one School Board member has been charged with legal complaints does not mean that the entire Board and the District are corrupt or incompetent," Dinnen's memo says. "However, we need to put relevant issues of concern on the table."