Runcie could get more than $700,000 from Broward Schools in severance deal, lawyer says

Negotiations over embattled Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie’s separation agreement stalled Wednesday over a provision in his contract that could add another $400,000 to his payout when he leaves office, which could bring his total severance to more than $700,000.

The $400,000 stems from a clause in Runcie’s contract that calls for the district to pay him the money he gave up from the Chicago school district by coming to Broward as superintendent in 2011, providing Runcie stayed with the Broward district for 10 years.

Runcie, indicted by a statewide grand jury last month on a perjury charge, was chief of staff to the Chicago Board of Education before the Broward School Board hired him in the fall of 2011.

Combined with the years he’s already vested in under the state retirement system in Florida, the School Board could be responsible for paying Runcie the $400,000 related to his Chicago pension, plus roughly $137,000 in severance and $196,000 in unused sick and vacation time, according to his contract, which runs through June 2023. That would bring his total severance package to $733,000. Runcie’s annual salary is $356,000.

Runcie’s attorney, Sherry Culves, stated during negotiations with the Board Wednesday that under the proposed deal, Runcie would cease his official duties as superintendent immediately. But, since his contact calls for 90 days’ notice of termination, he would stay on as an employee helping the next interim, acting or permanent superintendent transition to the job.

He would stop going to work on Aug. 4, Culves said. But, every business day from then until Oct. 5, he would use accrued sick time, which would take him to his 10-year anniversary with the district, qualifying him as a 10-year employee under the Florida Retirement System.

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The exact dollar figure Runcie is owed in retirement benefits, however, is unknown since his account with the Florida Retirement System, the pension program for public employees, is frozen due to the indictment, Culves said.

Because the account is frozen, the School Board doesn’t know how much it would have to pay for Runcie’s total severance. Thus, it postponed its next meeting about Runcie’s severance until Tuesday, instead of Thursday.

“I’m not comfortable with making any type of recommendation or decision without knowing what that number is,” said School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood. “I’m not comfortable going to the board without that number.”

The board has tasked Osgood with negotiating a termination agreement with Runcie, 59, who has been accused of lying to the grand jury in his testimony, and with Barbara Myrick, 72, the district’s general counsel, also indicted by the grand jury. She has been accused of disseminating confidential information about the jury’s proceedings.

The board is expected to meet Thursday to discuss Myrick’s proposed exit deal.

Myrick, who earns $220,000 a year, is asking for $91,740 in severance and $115,067 in unused sick and vacation time. She has been the district’s general counsel since 2016.

Broward County Public Schools General Counsel Barbara Myrick speaks during a School Board meeting Thursday, April 29, 2021.
Broward County Public Schools General Counsel Barbara Myrick speaks during a School Board meeting Thursday, April 29, 2021.

Negotiations with Runcie and his lawyers are scheduled to resume Monday, with Miami-Dade County School Board Attorney Walter J. Harvey serving pro bono as legal counsel to Osgood. He has taken a temporary leave from the Miami-Dade school district.

Miami-Dade School Board attorney Walter J. Harvey looks on during a meeting on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. The Broward County School Board unanimously approved Miami-Dade County School Board Attorney Walter J. Harvey Tuesday, May 4, 2021, to help in the separation agreement negotiations between the board and its superintendent, Robert Runcie. Harvey is taking a two-day leave to work pro bono on the case.

On Tuesday, Osgood is scheduled to present the final negotiations with Runcie to the board.

One of the sticking points is the payout related to his Chicago tenure. His contract states that if Runcie were to make it 10 years as Broward’s superintendent, the School Board would pay him up to four years’ worth of retirement benefits stemming from his time employed by the Chicago public school system. How the 10 years is calculated is also up for discussion.

The statewide grand jury, authorized by Gov. Ron DeSantis in February 2019, was tasked with investigating whether fraud was committed when school districts accepted millions of dollars from a state bond issue contingent on implementing school safety measures. It also investigated whether on-campus crime was under-reported by the district. It wrapped up on April 17.

The Legislature enacted school safety laws in the wake of the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Seventeen people were killed and 17 others were wounded by gunman Nikolas Cruz that day.

Runcie, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of contacting at least one person who was a witness in another case the grand jury was investigating. Prosecutors said he lied to the grand jury when asked about that conversation.

Prosecutor Richard Mantei, who works for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, said he has phone records that show Runcie contacted someone on the grand jury witness list on March 30, the night before he gave his testimony to the grand jury on March 31 and April 1.

That other case resulted in the January indictment of the school district’s former technology chief, Tony Hunter, who was charged with buying $17 million worth of flat screen monitors for the district from his friend’s company in Georgia and circumventing the bidding process.

Hunter is charged with one count of bid tampering and one count of unlawful compensation in the pending case. He pleaded not guilty.

Mantei said Myrick also contacted someone on the witness list for Hunter’s case before she testified to the grand jury last month.

Runcie has said he would be vindicated by the time the case against him plays out.

When he agreed to step down during the April 27 School Board meeting, he said he was doing so not as a result of the indictment, but because so many people, including several family members of Parkland victims, continue to blame him for cultivating a climate within Broward schools that led up to the tragedy.

The original story incorrectly stated the amount of Barbara Myrick’s unused sick and vacation time as $204,405. The combined cost is $115,067.