FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A former South Florida school official directed a $17 million electronics contract to a Georgia company while bypassing the normal bidding process and in return received a job and a house at a below-market price, state officials alleged Wednesday.
Tony Hunter, a former chief information officer for Broward County schools, was arrested Tuesday on charges of unlawful compensation and bid tampering after a statewide grand jury issued an indictment, which remains sealed. He was released on $50,000 bond. His attorney denies wrongdoing.
Hunter, 60, directed the purchase of interactive television panels used in classrooms from Education Consultants Inc. without going through the district’s legally required bidding process, the State Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday. In return, the company’s owner, David Allen, gave Hunter and his son jobs and sold him a large lakefront house in Georgia for $150,000 below market value, prosecutors said in a statement.
The South Florida SunSentinel reported that while Broward was paying nearly $4,200 per panel from Education Consultants in 2019, neighboring Miami-Dade County purchased similar panels from another company for $1,800 less.
“This unconscionable breach of trust by a public servant hurt taxpayers and undermined the integrity of his position,” said Troy Walker, who heads the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Miami regional office.
The school district released a statement Wednesday night saying Superintendent Robert Runcie immediately contacted the district’s internal auditor after learning about the allegations against Hunter. The auditor engaged an independent firm to perform an external review, which was passed along to prosecutors, the statement said. The external review clarified that the district substantially followed procedures and paid market value for the equipment. The district statement said it has improved and strengthened existing procedures.
Hunter’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, said Wednesday that Hunter’s interactions with Allen “were all aboveboard” and that he will defend himself in court.
Allen died earlier this month of COVID-19, according to an online obituary.