South Florida Sun Sentinel | by Scott Travis and Rafael Olmeda | May 12, 2021
A judge entered not guilty pleas for Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and General Counsel Barbara Myrick on Wednesday, the same day prosecutors released new details about how the alleged crimes took place.
The prosecutors, in a demand for information from Runcie’s lawyer, released partial transcripts that suggest Myrick contacted Mary Coker, the district’s procurement director, to learn information that could help Runcie in his testimony before a grand jury, which was investigating corruption in the district.
Runcie is charged with one count of perjury related to his grand jury testimony, while Myrick is accused of illegally disclosing grand jury information.
Myrick asked Coker about technology purchases that resulted in the January arrest of a third administrator, former Chief Information Officer Tony Hunter, the transcripts show.
On the evening of March 31, the same day Runcie had testified before the grand jury, Myrick talked to Runcie’s lawyer, Jeremy Kroll, a transcript states. She then talked to Coker for about 20 minutes, according to phone records obtained by the prosecutors.
Myrick said she was calling Coker about an unrelated purchasing issue, but then acknowledged she also asked about the 2015 and 2016 purchases of Recordex interactive TV’s. The grand jury indicted Hunter in January on bid rigging and bribery charges, saying he steered $17 million in contracts to a friend.
An audit found the district split up a nearly $1 million purchase into two contracts just shy of $500,000, the maximum the district is allowed to spend without School Board approval. The district used a piggyback contract with a government agency in Minnesota to make these purchases. Myrick told prosecutors she asked questions about these to Coker, who did not work in the district at the time but had researched it for an audit.
“I spoke to Mr. Kroll about piggybacks. He asked me some questions, and I spoke to him. And I did call Mary Coker, and I asked her some questions about it because it’s not my form of expertise, and I gave that information to Mr. Kroll,” Myrick said, according to the transcript.
A prosecutor accused Myrick of withholding this information in earlier comments.
“You’re a member of the Bar. I don’t have to prove perjury. You have to tell the truth here,” the prosecutor said.
“And I am telling the truth,” Myrick responded.
“You are leaving out facts, aren’t you?”
“Not purposely, no,” she said.
Prosecutors also released excerpts of Runcie’s testimony. When Runcie was asked April 1 whether he had been prepped about the Recordex purchases, he responded, “No, I haven’t talked to anyone specifically about that,” the transcript shows.
Prosecutors say this was a lie and charged him with one count of perjury. In an earlier deposition, they say Runcie personally contacted “one or more listed witnesses” about piggyback contracts and other matters related to Recordex on March 29, two days before he testified.
The document released Wednesday doesn’t say whom Runcie contacted, but it lists the primary witnesses in his case as Myrick, Coker and Phil Dunn, who replaced Hunter as the district’s chief information officer.
“I know for a fact the superintendent lied during his testimony about how he was prepared for his testimony,” a prosecutor told Myrick, according to the transcript. “I know. And I’m not that good at this. He walked into it. It was a gimme.”
Neither Myrick nor her defense lawyer could be reached for comment. Coker and Dunn, both reached Wednesday, declined to comment.
Johnny McCray, a member of Runcie’s legal team, said his lawyers are still reviewing the new information.
“It’s early. I do believe that in order for us to put this material in its proper context, we’ll need to see his full testimony, which we will be seeking.”
Runcie entered a plea of not guilty in writing in late April, a week after he was charged with perjury for allegedly lying to a statewide grand jury, making it unnecessary for him to appear at Wednesday morning’s arraignment hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein.
The judge had to enter a not guilty plea on behalf of Myrick, who also did not appear at the hearing after her lawyer filed a written plea of “standing mute,” a legal maneuver that refuses to acknowledge the charge. Her lawyer, David Bogenschutz, had filed a motion last week demanding more specifics about the allegation that she disclosed information about the grand jury’s legally secret proceedings.
Statewide prosecutors refused to provide them.
Runcie will officially step down as Broward Schools superintendent in three months under a $754,900 separation agreement narrowly approved by the School Board on Tuesday. Myrick has also agreed to step down and will receive a $226,000 package.
Image: In a split vote, the Broward School Board has approved a $754,900 exit package for outgoing Superintendent Robert Runcie.