SCHOOLS

Former Broward school construction chief hired by charter school firm

 

mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

Accused of creating a culture of misspending and overall dysfunction, Tom Lindner in December lost his job as the Broward school district’s construction chief.

But Lindner didn’t stay unemployed for long.

On Wednesday, Lindner confirmed he’s now spearheading construction for one of the nation’s largest for-profit charter school companies.

Beginning this month, Lindner assumed the title of assistant director of facilities and projects for Fort Lauderdale-based Charter Schools, USA. The firm operates 48 schools on 45 campuses in five states — including six in Broward and six in Miami-Dade.

“If you’re a facilities and construction guy ... you need to go where the work is,” said Lindner, noting that his new employer has 13 schools under construction. The Broward school district, meanwhile, can’t even adequately fund maintenance and repairs.

“They’re broke,” Lindner said of the district. “They’re spending all their money on debt service, they borrowed too much money.”

When Lindner hastily left the school district — he was forced to resign or face the possibility of being fired — Superintendent Robert Runcie said the construction chief had contributed to Broward’s budget woes. Runcie accused Lindner of spending taxpayer money in a “rogue” fashion.

In an administrative complaint that Runcie filed against Lindner, he criticized him for an unauthorized refurbishing of the chief building inspector’s office, and said Lindner’s refusal to reform how Broward awarded construction contracts amounted to “gross insubordination.”

Broward’s methods of building and repairing schools have long been criticized as wasteful and vulnerable to abuse — in June, an outside accounting firm identified more than 40 areas of concern in district contracts. When Runcie pushed for Broward to implement new procedures, Lindner’s department continued to issue contracts the old way, which could ultimately add millions to the cost of those projects.

Asked about his departure from the district, Lindner called it an “unfortunate” outcome, but insisted his overall track record had been solid. About six weeks before he was forced out, Lindner said he received a “satisfactory” evaluation from his superiors.

In his new position, Lindner said he earns less than the $160,000 salary he earned at the district, but wouldn’t say how much.

Runcie, meanwhile, said he wished his old employee well.

“I’m just focused on trying to move the organization forward,” Runcie said. “I’m happy for the guy that he found something.”

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