With his signature on June 20, Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Florida lawmakers disbanded the scandal-plagued Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and rechristened it as the Central Florida Expressway Authority, which has a new board. Three Florida counties already have appointed new board members, and Scott will appoint the remaining ones.
A grand jury indicted two board members, one for violating public-meeting laws in connection with a plan to oust former board Chairman Max Crumit. An engineer seen by many as a transparency advocate, he now works for CH2M Hill. A more serious case involves former board member R. Scott Batterson, also an engineer. The grand jury charged him in late April with offering a bribe to Mark Callahan, CH2M Hill's area manager, during a friendly gathering for after-work beers and burgers last July at an Orlando club called CaddyShanks. Batterson, anticipating the ouster of Crumit as chairman, allegedly offered CH2M Hill the general engineering consultancy held by Atkins if CH2M Hill would hire the team members designated by Batterson and his supporters.
In addition to the alleged solicitation-for-bribery charge, the grand jury charged Batterson with solicitation for receiving compensation. Scott removed Batterson from the board on the day of the indictment. Batterson has pleaded not guilty, according to state records, and posted bail. Previously, he had worked as a senior project manager at consultant IBI Group, but the company says it no longer employs him.
Removed, in many cases, from the kind of scrutiny to which state agencies are subject and overseen by political appointees, turnpike and expressway authorities around the country have been seen as magnets for patronage and influence peddling. Whether the expressway under its new name can avoid that pitfall will depend on the integrity of its new directors and staff.