Governor Scott and Scott Batterson, birds of a feather.
Expressway authority board member Scott Batterson was indicted by a grand jury today on one count of bribery and two counts of soliciting unlawful compensation as a public official.
The grand jury said this is an interim report and more indictments could come.
Bond for Batterson has been set at $3,000. If convicted, Batterson faces 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Gov. Rick Scott promptly suspended Batterson. Scott placed Batterson on the board in August 2011.
“All public officials must be held to the highest ethical standards,” Scott said in a written statement.
Orange Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton has been investigating Batterson, along with Orlando Orange County Expressway board members Marco Pena and Noranne Downs, since September on claims that they privately discussed ousting former director Max Crumit from the job he held for two years. Authority business can be talked about only in public meetings.
But Ashton’s investigators also attended authority meetings in which land purchases are discussed, including property owned by a company, Project Orlando LLC, headed by Maitland attorney Jim Palmer.
Project Orlando intends to build a billion-dollar development called Kelly Park Crossings by the sole interchange within 15 miles of the Wekiva Parkway, a $1.66 billion toll road being built by the authority and the state.
IBI Group of Maitland, which employs Batterson, worked on Kelly Park Crossings until June 2011. Emails obtained by Ashton and reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel show Batterson was introducing potential investors to Palmer as recently as June.
Batterson said he was performing a “common courtesy” and will not be paid for his efforts. By authority rules, he cannot vote on Kelly Park Crossing matters within two years of having a business relationship with Palmer’s company.
After the Batterson indictments were announced today, Ashton said “all the investigations are still ongoing.”
He said that Batterson and Pena declined to testify before the grand jury. He added that Chris Dorworth, the former state legislator who supported Batterson’s appointment to the authority board, was also asked to appear before the grand jury but declined.
Three board members – chairman Walter Ketcham, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Downs – all voluntarily testified before the grand jury earlier today.
The panel, Ketcham said, was “very interested, very knowledgeable, and they were very astute.”
Jacobs was the first to testify, spending more than an hour answering questions. “They asked very insightful questions,” Jacobs said on her way out. “And I came away from this feeling very good about the process.”