Robert Runcie pleads not guilty to perjury charge

Embattled Broward County superintendent says he'll step down
Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie smiles during 2019 school board meeting
Posted at 3:48 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 15:48:01-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — One day after saying he would resign as Broward County's superintendent, Robert Runcie has pleaded not guilty to a perjury charge.

Attorneys for the embattled Broward County Public Schools superintendent entered a written plea of not guilty Wednesday in court. They also submitted a filing again seeking to drop the charge.

Runcie and Broward County School Board general counsel Barbara Myrick were arrested last week as part of a statewide grand jury investigation related to possible fraud for school safety initiatives and whether there was a failure to follow the mandates of school-related safety laws put into place after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Robert Runcie arrest photo
Robert Runcie, 59, was booked into the main Broward County jail on April 21, 2021.

Attorneys for Runcie previously filed a motion to dismiss the charge, accusing the indictment of lacking "specificity."

But a prosecutor for Florida's Office of Statewide Prosecution later revealed in a court filing that Runcie made contact with witnesses in the case of former district employee Tony Hunter, who was indicted earlier this year, to prepare for his own testimony.

Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Richard Mantei wrote that, when Runcie was asked if he spoke with anybody "who would have information about the Hunter situation," Runcie answered, "No, not that -- not that I'm aware of."

During Tuesday's school board meeting, Runcie offered to step down as superintendent.

"If the environment is not as such that I can do my very best, I'm willing to discuss a path to a mutual agreement of separation," Runcie said.

Runcie also addressed the parents of the Parkland school shooting, speaking directly to Lori Alhadeff, who was elected to the Broward County School Board later that year.

"I know you've been in enormous amounts of pain that none of us can ever imagine, and I guess I'm probably part of the source of that in some way," Runcie told her. "And so if it's going to give you peace and it's going to give you and those other parents who remain angry -- because I don't see how there's anything else I can do -- if it's going to give you that, I will step aside so you can have the peace that you are looking for."

The school district released a prepared video Tuesday in which Runcie said he believed he would be "vindicated."