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Broward school construction contracts dominated by firms with political ties

September 13, 2010 05:15PM

Ex-School Board member Beverly Gallagher

Broward County awarded $1.1 billion in school construction contracts during the building boom of the past five years, but the vast majority of that money went to just four companies, a Sun Sentinel analysis has revealed. Those four builders: James B. Pirtle Construction Co., Padula & Wadsworth, James A. Cummings and Centex-Rooney, together received around 75 percent of the contracts, while sixteen other firms split the rest. Pirtle was the biggest winner, having received 41 percent of the funds for 51 projects including West Broward High and Glades Middle. The company took in a total of $459 million and was more active in lobbying and in School Board donations than its competitors, like Balfour Beatty, which acquired Centex-Rooney in 2007. Contractors are generally selected by a committee of School Board members, staff and board appointees. School builders and their political influence came under scrutiny last year when former School Board member Beverly Gallagher was arrested for taking bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as consultants for construction contractors. She is now serving a three-year and one-month prison sentence. [Sun Sentinel]