Education

After raising concerns, chair of Miami-Dade school bond oversight board out of job

A Miami-Dade construction site.
A Miami-Dade construction site. AL DIAZ

After publicly raising concerns about a key goal of the Miami-Dade school district’s $1.2 billion school improvement project, an advisory committee chairman is out of a job.

Ronald Frazier lost his chairmanship of the Small Business Enterprise Advisory Committee last week after contacting media outlets and School Board members to question the school district’s monitoring of contracts awarded to small and minority-owned businesses. Without the proper oversight, Frazier has argued, there’s no way to ensure contractors are complying with requirements that they hire small businesses, many of which are owned by minorities, for a certain percentage of each school improvement project.

Technically Frazier’s term expired in March, but Frazier said a representative from the School Board Attorney’s Office had previously stated that he would be able to stay on as chairman until the committee’s bylaws were adopted by the School Board. (The school district says this conversation never took place.) Frazier said the timing of his removal as chairman, which came a week after the Miami Herald published an article that mentioned Frazier’s concerns, is “suspicious”.

“I’ve been there for four months [after the term expired], nobody has said anything,” Frazier said. “With all the stuff that’s going on and all the information I have and all the memos I’ve been writing to the board about certain information, it just looks suspicious.”

But School Board Attorney Walter Harvey said in an e-mail that Frazier’s removal had nothing to do with his criticism, and that the term expiration had come to his attention after a recent public records request about Frazier’s term limits “prompted a review.” The Herald has been provided with a copy of the public records request.

School Board member Steve Gallon questioned the timing of Frazier’s removal and said it “appears to have been handled in a manner inconsistent with the standard process.”

“His seemingly abrupt removal creates a tremendous void of institutional knowledge and sheer acumen in an area of advocacy for small and minority businesses,” Gallon said in an e-mail. Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, who appointed Frazier to the committee in 2013, declined to comment other than to say that Frazier has “done an admirable job.”

The $1.2 billion bond referendum to rebuild and repair aging school facilities, which voters approved in 2012, was promoted as a boon for local businesses and the School Board created policies to ensure the money was shared with small and minority-owned businesses. Critics, including Frazier, have questioned the district’s oversight of spending on minority-owned businesses and the validity of the ownership claims of at least a few companies.

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