5 and 1/2 hours: the night all hell broke loose in the DeSantis/Corcoran/DoE/Jefferson scandal
DeSantis meekly stops pretending Ramsey/Tuck are the scandal. His IG will investigate "holistic"-ly. Congressional Dems call on federal IG to engage. Jefferson demands justice. Oliva loses Miami-Dade.
Between 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Monday night (Jan. 25), the DeSantis/Corcoran/DoE/Jefferson scandal got wild. If you want to understand the scope of the scandal — and why Monday night was such a turning point — see my primer/explainer article here, which I will need to update.
So what happened Monday?
“All of the above,” “holistic”: DeSantis abjectly reverses himself and stops openly covering up the scandal
Just after 5 pm Monday, Lawrence Mower and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times shared Tallahassee Bureau reported that DeSantis’ inspector general is reviewing the DoE/Jefferson bid-rigging scandal in its entirety. Go read the story; it’s great and droll. Apparently, DeSantis’ office did not announce this. Mower and Ceballos got wind of it somehow.
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ chief inspector general is reviewing the handling of a bid-rigging probe at the Florida Department of Education, his office said Monday.
In a reversal from the office’s previous statement, DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske confirmed Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel is reviewing how the Department of Education and its inspector general handled the bid for a multimillion-dollar contract.
“She is doing her due diligence on all of the above,” said Fenske, the governor’s communications director.
Various folks suspect this will be another sham investigation — just like DoE’s investigation was. That’s possible. We’ll all just have to see how honest and civic-minded IG Melinda Miguel is. A future article will explain what a legitimate investigation will look like. Hopefully Miguel will read it.
But for now, at minimum, she must interview everyone who attended the shady Ralph Arza meeting at DoE’s Tallahassee building on Nov. 1. We need a list of everybody who was there, by name, and sworn statements of what they said. I’ll be watching closely for that.
And just for your amusement, note that DeSantis spokeswoman/troll Christina Pushaw is nowhere near this most recent Mower/Ceballos story. Undoubtedly, that’s because of this hilarious sequence:
The initial response to Tant’s letter was dismissed by the governor’s office, who said the investigation was concluded, “and the commissioner and DOE have been fully transparent about the investigation, its findings and the actions taken by the agency.”
“Rep. Tant’s letter is a few weeks late,” spokesperson Christina Pushaw said in an email.
After this story published online, the governor’s office said Monday’s developments were “not a reversal.”
Oh, Christina. A serious IG investigation will still interview you, personally, about the obvious open cover-up you were participating in that your boss the governor has now confirmed.
Investigate all the cover-upping, too, Ms. Miguel.
Congressional Democrats call on Federal IG to investigate and report on improper state direction of Jefferson’s local ESSER funds; governor candidates engage hard.
Within an hour or so of Mower/Ceballos breaking their story, I received a letter signed by Democratic U.S . Reps. Kathy Castor, Al Lawson, Charlie Crist, Frederica Wilson, Darren Soto, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Key excerpt:
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Commissioner Corcoran recently met with a representative of the Jefferson County School District and his Department decided to drop MGT’s contract and allow the county over the next year to act independently. We believe that decision was made because of the recent attention on this matter. Even in the absence of a current contract, we have an additional concern about use of ESSER funds. Specifically, according to Education Department’s guidance, local educational agency (LEAs), are supposed to decide how to use their ESSER funds, not their state’s Department of Education. Yet FL DOE planned to use the ESSER funds without any input from LEAs.
We believe these are serious allegations and we are concerned about the appropriate use of ESSER funds by FL DOE. To that end, we further write to determine whether the Department of Education is aware of, following, or investigating these allegations. If so, we request to be briefed on the Education Department’s findings and informed on any updates regarding this matter. Thank you for addressing this matter with the urgency and concern it demands, consistent with applicable statutes and regulations.
Like state IG Melinda Miguel, US Department of Education IG Sandra Bruce will need to get on the record accounts of the shady Arza meeting. She’ll also want to look at this public meeting of the Jefferson School on Dec. 13, where DoE both covers up the bid corruption and announces that it plans to direct local ESSER funds from Jefferson to whatever grifty consultant it hires. And Jefferson doesn’t even get to pick the consultant.
Here’s the full letter screen-shotted:
This follows closely on state governor candidates finally internalizing the substantive importance and political potency of this scandal. This is great, accurate stuff from Annette Taddeo about how CRT noise is just cover for the Florida’s DoE’s rank corruption.
And it was most likely Nikki Fried that got DeSantis to jump by doing this on Sunday:
I’ve been critical of the Dem candidates response to this scandal; but I welcome their aggressive new engagement here. It’s important.
And just wait till Trump does the equivalent of what Annette Taddeo did in her Tik Tok to DeSantis about the tiny Trump-voting county DeSantis sold out to benefit Miami grifters with close ties to the Jeb Bush education empire.
I’ll talk to Trump minions, too.
Jefferson County officials demand an audit — and *at least* the same resources that failed Somerset Charter got in producing a “disaster” for Jefferson’s kids
About the time all this was going on, the elected Jefferson School board was holding a meeting. I caught a little bit of it. Yet another revolving door DoE person mouthed some additional empty words about partnership at the Jefferson board.
But money talks; and you-know-what walks.
So Jefferson sent a letter to Richard Corcoran demanding at least the same resources — at least $20M plus over five years — that failed Somerset Charter got. That seems too reasonable to me; just repairing Somerset’s “choice” damage will take that much money.
But here’s the Jefferson letter, with its full righteous demands, also screenshotted. Florida’s Republican state government, which has so wrecked, cheated, and grifted the people of Trump-voting Jefferson County, should give them everything they want and more.
The “audit” request is crucial. It could determine if Somerset did in fact spend all the money — and keep all the positions it funded — in Jefferson County.
DoE Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva loses Miami-Dade; gains a very long, uncomfortable interview with at least one IG — and probably two
And as if this crazy evening couldn’t get crazier, the Miami-Dade School Board voted 6-3 to hire Jose Dotres over DoE Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva.
In doing so, they seem to have rejected nasty political ads stumping for Oliva as the superintendent candidate most aligned with DeSantis.
The M-D School Board literally interviewed Oliva as all of this was breaking Monday night. One board member asked in general terms about Jefferson County — but not in specific terms about Oliva’s role in the Nov. 1 Ralph Arza meeting; his role in the MGT part of the bid-rigging scandal; or why he — and all of DoE — hid the corruption from the elected Jefferson School Board.
A serious investigation by state IG Melinda Miguel and/or USDoE IG Sandra Bruce will ask Oliva about each in detail.
And there you have it. The savvy people of Florida influencer media — looking at you Politico — continue to think this story isn’t worth paying attention to.
But it is.