Runcie knew ‘for a fact’ he lied, state says in court filing against Broward schools chief

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The prosecutor investigating Robert Runcie, the Broward Schools superintendent charged with lying to a grand jury and for whom the School Board just approved a nearly $755,000 severance deal, told the district’s top lawyer he knew “for a fact” that Runcie lied when he testified, according to grand jury testimony released Wednesday.

“I know. And, I’m not that good at this. He walked right into it. It was a gimmee,” statewide prosecutor Joe Spataro told Barbara Myrick, the district’s top lawyer, when she testified April 12 before the jury, according to a transcript of the testimony, filed Wednesday in Broward Circuit Court. “But, I know for a fact he lied, which is why I have those phone records in my hand.”

The transcript did not specify exactly what prosecutors say Runcie lied about, nor did it detail the phone records.

The court filing homed in on whether Runcie, who testified from March 31 to April 1, had contact with anyone about another case the jury was investigating, which resulted in the indictment of the district’s former technology head, Tony Hunter, earlier this year.

According to the transcript, Spataro asked Runcie if he spoke with anyone prior to his appearance before the grand jury about “the Hunter situation.”

“Phone calls? Emails? Text messages? Smoke signals?” Spataro asked.

Runcie replied, “No, not that — I’m trying — no. No, I haven’t talked to anyone specifically about that.”

Richard Mantei, another of the state prosecutors, asked Runcie if Myrick told him who had been subpoenaed by the grand jury. He replied that she told him that some School Board members had.

“So, Ms. Myrick told you who had been here or who had received a subpoena,” Mantei asked.

“I guess board — you know, board members generally,” Runcie replied.

“Is that a ‘Yes?’ ” asked Mantei.

“Yes, I believe so,” Runcie answered.

Both Runcie and Myrick were indicted April 15 by the grand jury, which was looking into school districts not complying with school safety laws passed by the Legislature after the Feb. 14, 2018, shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, which led to the deaths of 17 students and faculty members.

The grand jury also was investigating whether school districts were upfront about complying with those safety measures when soliciting and receiving millions of dollars in state funds. Gov. Ron DeSantis authorized the jury in February 2019, a year after the shootings.

Runcie, 59, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with lying to the grand jury about contacting at least one witness on another case the jury was investigating. Myrick, 72, is charged with disclosing grand jury proceedings, which are secret. She is fighting the charge.

The transcript showed prosecutors grilling Myrick about a telephone conversation she had March 29, two days before Runcie testified to the jury, with Runcie’s attorney and the school district’s procurement officer.

During her testimony, prosecutors asked her several questions regarding with whom she spoke during the evening of March 29 after she got off the phone with one of Runcie’s attorneys.

Around 5 p.m. that day, Myrick spoke with Jeremy Kroll, one of Runcie’s attorneys in the criminal case, according to the transcript. When she hung up, prosecutors say she called Mary Coker, the district’s procurement officer.

She then called Kroll the next day, which was the day before Runcie was set to testify. Prosecutors say the call was to prep Runcie for his testimony, which Myrick has denied.

The conversation, according to the transcript, related to the purchasing of Recordex interactive flat screen computer monitors for the district and the procurement process known as “piggybacking,” which allows a government entity to use another entity’s existing contract to make purchases.

That equipment purchase is at the heart of the Hunter case. Hunter, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of “piggybacking” to buy $17 million worth of the Recordex gear for the district from his friend’s company in Georgia so he could avoid the bidding process.

Spataro said he knew Myrick told Coker that Runcie was going to testify, according to the transcript.

“I know you violated this statute,” he said. “I know these things so I’m going to ask you one more time, and I’m not going to do, ‘I don’t recall. I know.’ This is the statewide grand jury that you have been dealing with, I know, substantially, for two years. ... I know you have not forgotten these phone calls.”

Spataro then asked Myrick if Kroll, Runcie’s attorney, asked her about piggyback contracts during their March 30 phone call. She said he did.

“Did you then immediately inquire of Ms. Coker about piggyback contracts?” Spataro asked, to which Myrick replied, “Yes.”

The prosecutor asked Myrick if she told Coker that Runcie was about to testify.

“I don’t believe I did,” Myrick testified.

When asked if she provided the information Coker provided her about piggyback contracts to Kroll the next day, Myrick said she did.

“Does the superintendent know you obtained that information for him?” Spataro asked.

“I have no idea,” Myrick replied.

One of the jurors grilled Runcie about being able to remember details about the district’s contract with tool manufacturer Grainger that was executed several years ago, but he could not recall all the details of the more recent Recordex contract.

“But do you really expect the grand jury to believe that you can remember all of that stuff, you can remember all of that, you know, that particular workshop that took place three or four years ago about some tool manufacturer, but you can’t remember a discussion that happened a couple of months ago at a closed-door meeting regarding the discussion of a commission of a crime,” the juror asked.

Runcie said he knew more details about the Grainger contract because the company is based in Illinois, where he lived and worked before the Broward School Board hired him as superintendent in 2011.

“I know the organization. I came to Broward from Illinois, where Grainger, you know, is located,” Runcie said. “So, that one, I remember.”

The release of the transcript comes a day after Runcie’s attorneys filed a second motion to dismiss the perjury charge, arguing the indictment does not detail what prosecutors allege he said during his testimony to be untrue. Also, his attorneys argue that a prosecution filing responding to Runcie’s first motion to dismiss only states Runcie spoke with a witness in the Hunter case.

This alone, his attorneys Michael Dutko and Kroll argue, is not enough for a statewide grand jury indictment, which they say is tasked with investigating crimes that happened in two or more counties. So, even if he did commit perjury, that’s outside of the jurisdiction of the statewide grand jury, the attorneys argue.

“The offense of perjury takes place where and when the subject makes the statement under oath,” Kroll and Dutko wrote. “Clearly, only Broward County is or was affected by his testimony, thereby divesting the Statewide Grand Jury of jurisdiction.”

Kroll, Dutko and Myrick’s attorney, J. David Bogenschutz, were not immediately available to comment on the grand jury transcripts.

On Tuesday, the Broward School Board, in a 5-4 vote, approved a $754,900 severance package for Runcie, who resigned and will stay on until Aug. 10 as part of his package.

The School Board approved Myrick’s $226,000 separation agreement last week. She will stay on as general counsel until June 30.

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