When I created the annotated version of the 2011 grand jury report, I reopened old criticisms on both ends of the spectrum.
For those who don’t know that last word in the article title, it was the full title of an open letter to French newspapers written by author Emile Zola in 1898.
I won’t explain it here, so look it up.
Earlier this year, after the release of the grand jury report, I did my own investigation into the powers and authority of grand juries and reported on what I found at the time.
The function of a grand jury is twofold:
To hear a case against an accused by collecting evidence and testimony that would tend to support such a case.
To indict the accused if the evidence supports such a move.
An additional power granted to a statewide grand jury is to produce a report of its findings if it chooses to do so.
A grand jury is not required to collect any evidence, hear any testimony, or include any evidence that would counter the objective of their investigation.
Just ask any defense attorney.
I know what they’ll tell you, but I won’t report it here.
Significant facts of such a case that don’t support the foregone conclusion are totally irrelevant and absolutely why the grand jury never included any of the evidence presented in the previous article and the annotated report.
In short the jury’s goal was very simple: The School Board is corrupt, the district is incompetent and we’re going to show you.
The information regarding the class size amendment, the legislature’s refusal to follow the constitution and adequately fund construction and the state mandated fines for not meeting requirements were significant facts, yet were intentionally excluded by the jury.
Every bit as significant was the 2002 grand jury’s report on the steep rise in student population over the preceeding ten years along with that jury’s instructions to build on the west side of the county.
Yet the 2011 grand jury chose to ignore that as well.
Those particular eliminations were absolutely purposeful for only one reason:
To facilitate the fantasy of the Board’s handing over hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to their friends while supposedly doing nothing about overcrowding on the west side of the county.
In order to further that fantasy, the grand jury excluded any testimony or evidence that facilities employees were getting cushy jobs with the very builders and lobbyists that supposedly had Board members in their pockets.
Those former employees were witnessed “lobbying” building officials, yet you’ve heard none of that.
The report that west side schools are still critically overcrowded couldn’t be supported had the jury published student enrollment data and school capacity data in west side schools between 2002 and 2010.
So they summarily ignored it knowing full well what the data would really show.
The jury also refused to provide lists of schools that were constructed and classroom additions that were built on the west side in order to relieve the critical overcrowding, so as to publish their own fantasy that overcrowding was never addressed.
The grand jury intentionally chose to ignore relevant portions of the law when it came to accusing Board members of taking gifts in the form of meals at FSBA (Florida School Boards Association) events.
They chose to publish portions of the law relating to valuation of gifts that applied to vendors, inferring that Board members were in violation of that law when they weren’t.
The jury then chose to exclude portions of the same law that related to elected officials in assigning value to those “gifts.”
In the ten year master plan, the grand jury chose to ignore the entire document and concoct a fantasy instead.
Claiming the ten year plan began in 2003 when in reality its projected start was 2005.
The jury also claimed that the consultant predicted student population would “flatten out” as early as 2003 and the School Board knew it.
No such thing occurred.
It was another fantasy concocted to “prove” the School Board was complicit in handing out hundreds of millions to their lobbyist and builder friends.
Everything I’ve countered the report with is in public record and can be examined by anybody.
The grand jury hopes you won’t.
From the 2002 grand jury’s recommendations, to the class size facts, to the real construction on the west side of the county, to the student population numbers between 2002 and 2010, to the laws concerning valuation of gifts, to the master plan itself are all available for public inspection.
The grand jury knows fully well that their accusations of School Board corruption won’t stand up in court, hence their reluctance to levy indictments against anybody, or even for that matter, name names.
Naming names would open a clear path to both libel and slander suits.
And so they chose the “kangaroo” court instead.
What is truly unfortunate is the idea that other portions of the grand jury report may very well be accurate, however the tenor of the entire report and its clearly defined goal makes the document every bit as believable as the little boy who cried wolf too often.