Lindner was forced to resign in December.
Royal Concrete is well-known in school districts across Florida. The companys concrete portable buildings described as concreteables, or Legos on steroids have been popping up across the state after voters approved the class-size amendment in 2002. The amendment led school districts to scamble to add classroom space, and Royal Concretes product more closely resembles a permanent building than traditional trailer-type portables.
By the time Broward selected Royal Concrete for the maintenance complex in 2008 (using a no-bid contract that later turned out to be expired), they had an established relationship from past deals to build portable classrooms.
Royal Concrete also sponsors events held by the Florida School Boards Association (and gets to speak to attendees in return). Four years ago, Royal Concrete hosted a campaign fundraiser for School Board member Ann Murray. Murray, who is now running for re-election, said recently that she would not accept any contributions from the company this time around, due to the ongoing legal dispute.
They have an honest reputation, Murray said of the firm. But with this contract, she said, Things were done without the paperwork in place, and thats when it gets cloudy.
The maintenance project, years in the planning, called for 24 portable buildings, at a total projected cost of about $5 million. Its cost was justified by the rapid population growth in southwest Browards suburbs, and the idea that a satellite office would reduce the driving time to service schools in the area. The property is near Stirling Road and Southwest 202nd Avenue, blocks from the Everglades.
When Runcie came in as superintendent in fall 2011, he was skeptical.
Even if the district had money, its like, why do we need another maintenance facility? Runcie said. Weve got to provide for our students first, and everyone else has got to take a back seat to that.
Runcie ordered the project halted in January 2012, and at the time he expressed confidence that the district would not have to pay very much for the work already performed, particularly when district auditors found Royal Concrete hadnt been operating with a valid contract.
Audits also found that the concreteables were built without approved design plans and without any inspections during the assembly process both violations of the Florida Building Code.
Months passed after the first critical audit, with Broward taking no formal steps to exit the contract.
In the meantime, Royal Concrete got its concretables certified by the state, even though the company according to Department of Business and Professional Regulation records told state regulators the structures were built improperly. The state used X-rays to ensure that two of the concretables were structurally sound and then certified the whole two dozen.
The district suddenly faced a tougher legal case to avoid paying for them. Broward then paid out more than $1 million (nearly $900,000 for the concretables, the rest for site work and design services) in May and August of last year. The districts legal staff signed off on the payments, concluding it was for work completed and noting that Lindner and two other administrators approved the payments.