Broward superintendent of schools: On second thought, I quit

What a difference a day makes. After getting indicted for perjury, Broward County schools superintendent Robert Runcie declared yesterday that the grand jury had conducted a politically motivated attack tied to the fallout from the Parkland mass shooting in 2018. Runcie insisted that he “will be vindicated,” and that he would demand full “due process” as he defended himself and his position:

By last night, however, Runcie decided that discretion really is the better part of valor:

After he was charged with lying to a grand jury earlier this month, Robert W. Runcie insisted he would “be vindicated.”

The schools superintendent in Broward County, Fla. had spent years battling accusations tied to his leadership before and after the Parkland school shooting — and the indictment, he claimed, was simply another politically motivated attack tied to the massacre.

Yet, less than 24 hours after saying as much in a video on Tuesday, Runcie appeared to change his tune.

“I will step aside so you can have the peace you are looking for,” he told Broward school board member Lori Alhadeff in a meeting later that night. Her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was one of 17 people killed in the mass shooting in February 2018.

“Change his tune” is understating it. Bear in mind that the specific investigation in which Runcie has been indicted for perjury wasn’t actually related to the Parkland shooting. The grand jury in Broward is conducting a wide-ranging review of several investigations involving public agencies and officials, only part of which involves the massacre. Prosecutors allege that Runcie and the district’s general counsel Barbara Myrick tried to contact witnesses and discuss their testimony ahead of appearances to the grand jury and then lied about it. The issue was a questionable technology contract, however, not the shooting:

Facing the prospect of a statewide grand jury, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie contacted witnesses in a criminal case to prepare for his testimony, then he lied about it under oath when asked, prosecutors say.

The superintendent took the steps just two days before appearing before the grand jury but then testified that he hadn’t, prosecutors said. …

Broward Schools General Counsel Barbara Myrick also was charged with disclosing the grand jury’s top secret proceedings.

Both charges stem from the indictment of former Broward Schools technology chief Tony Hunter, who was charged in January with rigging contracts for technology equipment for the district, as well as accepting illegal compensation from a vendor.

This doesn’t mean that Runcie’s guilty. An indictment is not a conviction, and prosecutors will need to prove this allegation in court. However, this quick 180 on “vindication” seems very odd — as if Runcie figured at first that he could paint this as related to the shooting, rather than on the more mundane issue of potential corruption. Or, perhaps Runcie and his attorneys see the potential of more charges coming his way — witness tampering might fit the facts in this indictment, or perhaps from another part of the investigation.

Whatever reasons Runcie has, those details will unfold sooner rather than later. The two-year grand jury probe must be close to reaching a conclusion if they are reporting indictments, so we will see just how much more information we will get from the Parkland shooting — and the failures of Broward County schools and law enforcement that played into it. Among other issues, clearly.

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David Strom 6:31 PM on October 05, 2022