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Put construction committee on hold, Broward School Board member says

Broward School Board member Ann Murray is asking Superintendent Jim Notter to place a moratorium on the committee that recommends companies for school district construction contracts, following last month's arrest of suspended Board member Beverly Gallagher.

Murray wants to suspend all business before the Qualification Selection Evaluation Committee -- known as QSEC -- including all contracts in the process of being awarded until the district holds a public forum to air citizens' concerns. The committee has come under fire from some school district observers and auditors in the past.

"The process is broken," Murray told Notter in her e-mail, dated Sunday. "We are under investigation by the FBI for wrongdoing. It is important this Board and administration make a decision now. In doing so, we will begin to restore the Broward County taxpayer's faith in our ability to govern and our ability to manage their interests."

The federal complaint against Gallagher says she accepted bribes in exchange for the promise to influence committee members to recommend a particular construction company for a $71 million Hollywood Hills High School renovation project. The construction company is not named, but the project went to James B. Pirtle Construction, one of the school district's most prolific contractors. The project has since been killed because of budget cuts.

Murray's e-mail also says "we should examine the possibility of monopoly of the district's construction projects and seek ways to open business to many companies to help build economic recover in our county and re-establish fair business practices."

--Hannah Sampson and Patricia Mazzei