Perjury charge dropped against former Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie

South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Scott Travis | April 25, 2023

A judge has dismissed the criminal perjury charge against former Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein emailed the decision to the prosecution and defense lawyers Tuesday morning.

A grand jury that was investigating school safety issues statewide indicted Runcie in April 2021, saying he had lied to the grand jury about being prepped for his testimony.

Fein’s ruling didn’t consider whether Runcie actually committed the alleged crime, instead saying the grand jury wasn’t authorized to indict him for the charge due to jurisdictional issues.

Runcie’s lawyers had argued that the matter was limited to one jurisdiction, and state law requires statewide grand juries to deal with matters spanning multiple jurisdictions. They also argued that perjury was outside the grand jury’s purview.

Fein agreed.


“I think the judge did the intellectually correct thing, which sometimes against a political backdrop takes a bit of courage,” Runcie lawyer Mike Dutko told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Runcie declined to comment, Dutko said.

“Congratulations to Robert Runcie and his wife, Diana, for their strength, dignity, and confidence in us during this trying ordeal,” said a statement from Dutko and fellow Runcie lawyers Jeremy Kroll and Johnny McCray Jr.

The lawyers argued that in a previous case, the Florida Supreme Court had ruled that a Statewide Grand Jury has no authority to indict someone for an alleged crime that takes place in only one jurisdiction. The false statement was alleged to have been made only in Broward, they argued at a March 23 hearing.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution had argued that a statewide grand jury “has the inherent power to indict the Defendant with any crime discovered during the course of the statutorily authorized proceedings if such a crime involves the sanctity and integrity of the Statewide Grand Jury,” the judge’s ruling said.

Still, prosecutors wrote in Runcie’s indictment that the alleged crime “occurred in two or more judicial circuits in the state of Florida.”

“This Court finds nothing on the face of the indictment in the present case that charges the Defendant with any crime … that occurred in two or more judicial circuits as part of a related transaction or any crime that is connected with an organized criminal conspiracy affecting two or more judicial circuits,” Fein wrote.

Fein wrote if a grand jury finds evidence of a crime, it can refer the allegation to a local grand jury or a State Attorney’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office has 30 days to file an appeal.

“We are evaluating the ruling and will likely appeal,” Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox said in a statement.

It’s unclear if the same jurisdictional issue could impact an intertwined case the Office of Statewide Prosecution is pursuing against former Broward Schools General Counsel Barbara Myrick, who was indicted the same day as Runcie on a charge of illegally disclosing secret grand jury material. She has pleaded not guilty.

“I think there are some issues that are the same or similar, but I have not looked at this from the impact of her case,” Dutko said. “I do know she’s got a very good lawyer who won’t miss anything.”

Prosecutors said Runcie and Myrick both spoke with Mary Coker, the district’s director of procurement, about a purchasing method used in a technology deal prior to Runcie testifying before the grand jury. Runcie lied about speaking to Coker, prosecutors alleged. Myrick admitted to speaking to Coker, but prosecutors say she illegally shared with Coker secret grand jury information.

Myrick’s lawyer, David Bogenschutz, couldn’t be reached Tuesday.

Former Technology Chief Anthony Hunter was originally indicted in January 2021 on charges of bid-rigging and illegal compensation for a public official, but the bid-rigging charge was dropped last year. He has pleaded not guilty on the other charge. His case spans beyond Broward as he was accused of buying a house in Georgia from a vendor at a significant discount.

Hunter had already left the district at the time of his indictment. Runcie and Myrick agreed shortly after their indictments to step down. Myrick’s last day was in June 2021, and Runcie’s was in August 2021.

Runcie is now the interim leader of Chiefs for Change, a national group that provides training and advocacy for superintendents and state education leaders. He and his wife still live in their Broward home, according to property records.

The grand jury was originally convened by Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate possible corruption and mismanagement following the 2018 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.

But safety issues appeared to take a backseat. None of the indictments related to safety issues, and a scathing grand jury report released in 2022 focused mostly on the district’s mismanagement of a school construction program.

But the grand jury still created major shakeups in school district leadership. DeSantis, at the grand jury’s recommendation, suspended four school board members in August.

The grand jury also played a role in Runcie’s successor Vickie Cartwright being forced out. The School Board maintained she hadn’t done enough to fix problems identified by the grand jury.

Another incident involving Runcie is still under review by the State Attorney’s Office, which was not involved in the grand jury case.

A June 2022 South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation revealed that Runcie and two former administrators hid key details about a ransomware attack from the public, but then used the info for a private business that received a $1 million contract with Chiefs for Change.

A few months later, the school district turned the information over to the State Attorney’s Office.

”Prosecutors have received some material from the school district and will review it and decide how to proceed,” State Attorney spokeswoman Paula McMahon said Tuesday, adding that no investigation has been opened at this stage.

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