Broward Schools whistleblower alleges bid rigging

By William Hladky, 

A political committee's mailer asking voters to approve last November's $800 million bond measure.

A political committee’s mailer asking voters to approve last November’s $800 million bond measure.

Administrators at the Broward County School District “rigged” bidding procedures to ensure that Jacobs Project Management Company would receive a multi-million dollar contract to manage $800 million in capital projects that voters agreed to finance, according to a district whistleblower.

Michael Marchetti, former special assistant to School Superintendent Robert Runcie, made the allegations to the superintendent in two January emails and to Broward County Schools Police Detective Edward Costello in an 18-page sworn statement on Feb. 10.

Voters approved the sale of $800 million in bonds in November to finance the projects. Much of the money is to be used to renovate and repair the district’s aging schools.

Marchetti identified the administrator mainly responsible for the bid rigging as Derek Messier, the school district’s chief facilities officer. The superintendent transferred Marchetti from being his assistant to being Messier’s subordinate in November.

Neither Superintendent Runcie nor Messier would comment directly. Both referred a reporter to the school district’s public information office, who did not respond.

Runcie was hired as superintendent in 2011 after working for Chicago’s Board of Education. He hired Messier, who also worked for Chicago’s public school system, in June.

Michael Marchetti

Michael Marchetti

Marchetti also told Runcie, and the detective under oath, that executives from Jacobs may have violated the school district’s “Cone of Silence” policy last January in a telephone call to Marchetti and during a subsequent meeting they had with him.

Marchetti provided with the sworn statement and his emails to Runcie.

The call and the meeting were held after a school district selection committee voted to recommend Jacobs for the contract, which is pending approval by the School Board.


A reporter asked school district spokeswoman Nadine Drew on Monday when the School Board would vote on the Jacobs contract. As of Wednesday night, she had not responded to that question or others submitted via email. Likewise, Broward Schools also did not provide requested documents on the pending contract.

The school district’s Cone of Silence policy prohibits a bidder from talking to “any School Board member, the Superintendent, any Evaluation Committee Member or any other School District employee…until the contract is awarded by the School Board.”

Jacobs Project Management Company is a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering Group, which is an international engineering, architecture, and construction firm. The main company is headquartered in Pasadena, California.

Marchetti told that he heard the capital projects contract might be worth $20 million and span five or six years.

Jacobs has an existing $1.2 million professional services contract with the school district to help assess facilities needing repair. Marchetti claims Jacobs has underperformed on that contract and he wondered in an email to Runcie if the company would be “qualified and capable to perform on (the new) contract that will surely end up being in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Superintendent Runcie previously complained about the company missing deadlines in a November letter to Jacobs Vice President Douglas Hyde.

Marchetti, who worked for the school district for 17 years, retired last month after the superintendent dismissed his concerns and told him “he didn’t feel that there was any issues…He thought everything was fine and that they were gonna go forward,” according to his sworn statement. The superintendent “didn’t even mention that he was concerned about the cone of silence,” Marchetti said.


Marchetti has blown the whistle before on wrongdoing at Broward Schools. Information he provided led to the 2010 arrests of School Board members Beverly Gallagher and Stephanie Kraft on corruption charges. Both were later convicted.

The School Board in 2013 paid Marchetti $190,000 to settle a lawsuit he filed after the school district laid off his wife as a research assistant for his alleged whistleblowing.

Messier allegedly began to grease the way for Jacobs after he met with Jacobs’ executives in August. According to one of Marchetti’s emails to Runcie, Messier told Marchetti after the meeting “he liked Jacobs very much…”

Messier also told Marchetti that “he was going to write his own RFP” to manage the district’s capital program. A RFP, or request for proposal, is a notice government puts out asking companies to bid for a contract. Marchetti worked for Messier at the time of the discussion.

Messier and Marchetti had lunch at Fort Lauderdale’s New River Grill and Pizza with Jacobs executives several weeks after the August meeting. One of those executives, identified only as “Mike,” knew Messier and they “rehashed some old times…when (both) worked together in Chicago,” Marchetti wrote to Runcie. “After the lunch, Mike made it a point to…tell me what a great guy (Messier) was…”

Marchetti told Runcie that Messier’s RFP “had not gone to the (school) board for approval to advertise and that (the) selection committee had been assembled…outside of the normal…process.”

“That’s another part of the alleged conspiracy,” Marchetti told

In his sworn statement to Detective Costello, Marchetti said the selection committee that voted last December to recommend Jacobs for the management contract was composed of school district administrators handpicked by Messier.

Aecom Technology Services, headquartered in Los Angeles, and Skanska USA Building Inc., headquartered in Dania Beach, also bid on the contract.

By assembling his own seven-person selection committee Messier bypassed a sitting committee, Marchetti told the detective. The committee that normally ranks bidders is the School Board’s Qualifications, Selection and Evaluation Committee.


“This whole thing was rigged,” Marchetti said in the sworn statement, adding that Messier appointed “people he could count on…and would “make sure that (Messier) is happy with them.”

Two committee members chosen by Messier should have disqualified themselves from the selection process because they were working with Jacobs and Skanaska on other current contracts, Marchetti said. “They should have recused themselves. They had way too much familiarity with the proposers.”

Marchetti added, “For (Messier) to let that happen and then for him and the superintendent to…continue to negotiate with Jacobs and say that there’s nothing wrong or nothing tainted with this process, when they violated policy by not going to (the qualifications committee) to start with. Those are…the big flags to me.”

While Messier’s selection committee recommended that Jacobs be awarded the management contract, Jacobs and the school officials must negotiate details of the contract before it is presented to the School Board for approval.

Marchetti told Runcie in an email that Jim McDaniell, a Jacobs’ vice president, telephoned him on Jan. 10 to ask if Marchetti’s criticism of Jacobs’ performance on the existing service contract “was going to spill over and affect…negotiations” over the new contract. “He actually asked me to please be careful to see that it doesn’t.”

McDaniell, who heads Jacobs negotiating team, told Marchetti during the phone call “he knew he was walking a fine line in calling me because the contract has not been awarded and they are still in the Cone of Silence.”

McDaniell, reach by phone, declined to comment. “I can’t speak to the press on anything,” he said.

In 2013, school district staff disqualified Jacobs for competing for an earlier contract because the company violated the Cone of Silence policy.


Marchetti told the superintendent, “I believe this phone call and request alone violates the Cone of Silence and falls somewhat far below the bar for moral integrity we should have as a standard for anyone connected to the bond program.”

Marchetti said McDaniell also told him during the phone call that Jacobs “had a special in with Derek (Messier)…because Jacobs had an employee named Mike…whom Derek worked with before in Chicago for about ten years whom…Derek trusts and likes very much.”

“This conflict with Derek was not going to go well for me and that at best I could end up in a closet somewhere counting paper until I became so tired of it I would just leave,” Marchetti told Runcie.

In an interview with a reporter, Marchetti said McDaniell also violated the Cone of Silence policy by calling him several times between Jan. 22 and Jan. 26 to discuss the possibility of Marchetti working for Jacobs. Marchetti recently had decided to retire from the school district.

At McDaniell’s request, Marchetti said he emailed McDaniell his resume on Jan. 25.

On Jan. 26, three Jacobs executives met with Marchetti to talk about the advantages Marchetti would bring to Jacobs. Marchetti’s sworn statement says the executives told him his knowledge of the school district’s software and programs would help Jacobs “get a leg up” and “make them look good” on the pending project.

Marchetti told Detective Costello that he considered that meeting a “pretty blatant” violation of the Cone of Silence policy.

The day after he talked to Detective Costello, Marchetti emailed the school board about the potential bid rigging. Marchetti said in an interview that none of the board members have responded to his email.

Detective Costello did not return several calls for comment.

The school district seeks outsiders to manage construction projects because in 2013 the school board laid off half of its 28 construction project managers. The downsizing occurred after a statewide grand jury in 2011 sharply criticized the Broward School District and its facilities division for lack of oversight and handling of bids.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • So here we go again!! This time however I have a problem with This repeat whistleblower.

    He would like us to believe that he is not also responsible for violating the cone of silence. So you get an appropriate phone call the correct response would have been to decline the conversation but do not Tell me that you participated in a conversation and then try to make yourself innocent on absolv your responsibility of participating in violet in a cold of silence

  • Things never change. Just like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Until the “STAFF” is held accountable nothing is going to change.. And bringing staff from Chicago is “Like a fox guarding the henhouse”. We all know Chicago is known for its honest and ethical politicians and government workers! What a joke.

  • Nothing like protecting the offenders by accusing the whistleblower. It goes much deeper than this one incident, as the Grand Jury pointed out.

  • I worked for Derek while he was Deputy Commissioner for the department of Fleet and Facilities Maintenance for the City of Chicago. He was probably thee absolute worst Deputy Commissioner this department has ever seen. I can guarantee he did the same thing here in Chicago. Bad Karma….lol

  • Derek messier was a real slime ball deputy commissioner for the city of Chicago.

    He is a direct protege of mayor Rahm emanuel.

    I can only hope the Feds look into all this fraud and put them all in jail from Florida to chicago.

  • Derek Messier personally handled construction contracts and contractors for the City of Chicago and the Chicago public schools managing which CPS schools would get additions.

    Hand picked by commissioner David Reynolds to be Deputy Commissioner in Chicago’s Dept. of Fleet and Facility Management, I bet he used the same rigging there pushing out old competant contractors and hand picking new ones.

    Unfortunately thats probably why the dept. of Fleet and Facility Management no longer has a multiple contractor competitive bidding process in play. Instead they have a demolition company incompetent to do renovation projects as the sole Contractor, bidding exorbitant amounts on renovation and construction projects claiming to work at .80 on the dollar. THANKS DEREK!. SORRY FLORIDA.

  • Hey , Look at the bright side …. the Federal Prison System with have a New Director of Facilities ………………… Good Riddance …… Enjoy the view form the 8 x 10 Cell

  • pigs get fat – hogs get slaughtered!!!

  • He has ruined a once proud building trade dept for the city of Chicago. Many good bosses retired or transferred out of fleet and facility management because of his antics. Good luck broward county. I wouldn’t want this individual in charge of a nickel.

  • Apparently some people are too cowardly to leave comments using their own name. Please do not involve me or my good name in your diluted attempt to voice your negative remarks.

    The “Real” Michael Batchman

  • Messier was a consultant to the Chicago Public Schools. He was never an employee of the school system. His bad decisions in many cases cost the cash strapped school system “mucho” dollars for terrible results. Glad he is gone.

  • BROWARD BULLDOG You have been doing wonderful work here in Broward, kudos!

    The diversity committee has a new website, it hasn’t ever been up, but we have it I am told. Perhaps one day the public can hear the deliberations, one might hope after all these decades… We just spent one entire year deliberating over bylaws I am told, seriously. I’m new.

    I was recently censored from airing by BECON TV – Two days later Ch. 10 aired a piece interviewing Dr. Pope of Broward Schools to divulge that Broward is number one in cases of sexual related problems in schools of ALL Florida counties. They edited me out so smoothly I’m embarrassed to say how many times I had to rewind to catch the edits, and I use to be co-owner of a TV Channel!

    Please note that just as the EPA in Florida cannot use the phrase “global warming” without risk of losing ones job, it is a written infraction to compare ANY education data on a Florida school to any other school or district OTHER than another Florida school.

    Mr. Runcie has said in aired interviews that 90 children out of 250,000 kids were bullied last year compared to 1,050 just a few years before… he IS clearly INCOMPETENT for this position and must be removed. If you overheard the mechanic you are about to leave your car with saying to “just pour some water in to level off the tank of someones car” – would you leave your car there for repair? That would be crazy right? Woefully misguided, incompetent or a liar?

    He is misguided is my call, based on his own harsh childhood he will see done to our children what he believes is necessary based on the harsh realities of his world as a child. Shame on us for allowing any child to be dealt such a harsh hand as was Mr. Runcie – shame on us to let it continue now under his clearly misguided (at best) leadership. Perhaps he can be educated, this is my hope. If not, he must be removed, clearly, and quickly. Mr. Runcie see’s no improvement in reading between grades 3 and 12 in our Broward schools as evidence that children just aren’t coming to school prepared, so it must be the parents fault and lack of adequate pre-kindergarden to blame – seriously, it’s the kids fault they can’t read, this is what he says out loud without blinking. Every single Broward HS has a ROTC, there isn’t even a county in TEXAS where that is true. We hand our kids over to the same system system exposed for abusing minors right HERE in Broward and it isn’t even discussed when the bills as blood money are paid the prison provider we hand our juveniles over to. Mr. Runcie has close ties with people associated with the prison system and its promotion, primarily through the Broad Foundation whose original charter was to dismantle the public school system as public enemy number one – the language has been cleaned-up considerably recently on their website. Broad employees came with Mr. Runcie along with the “deal.” I believe three Broad people came with him but they deny knowledge although I learned of it on the Broward school site. Perhaps someone OUT THERE IN THE PUBLIC can learn who these persons are or were that Mr. Runcie brought with him from the Broad Foundation? Just curious. Mr. Runcie can accomplish incredible GOOD by changing his plans and dropping his planned militarization and turning of Broward’s kids into the nations lackeys and service-people. Our kids can’t read not because they are poor, black, or anything else… they cannot read BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT TAUGHT THEM! Only five of 250 schools has passed all six subjects – this means that ONLY children going to one of these five schools will have the preparation needed and expected of them for graduation and that MORE THAN HALF OF ALL STUDENTS IN ALL 245 OTHER SCHOOLS have FAILED AT LEAST ONE SUBJECT – and many fail in multiple subjects – this is FACT and when brought up to Mr. Runcie 3 times has had NO RESPONSE from board or Mr. Runcie. Lies, lies and more lies. Enough! Our children are literally dying and being victimized – that they also cannot read is not even the main problem any longer!

  • I was deprived of 15 yrs of pension credits in spite of the fact that I was vested in florida retirement system. I was stripped of my vested interest and called a temporary teacher In spite of the fact that there is no such thing as a temporary teacher at broward schools according to my school board rep. I went to a kangaroo court administrative hearing and was shouted down repeatedly. I worked side by side with permanent teachers doing the EXACT same job and who get complete benefits.runsie an {Obama clone] from Chicago refuses to come to my rescue. teachers, this can happen to you.

leave a comment


Subscribe to our Newsletter


First Name

Last Name