Fla. legislator tapped to take over toll agency - FOX 35 News Orlando

Fla. legislator tapped to take over Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

A Florida legislator is getting the nod to take over a Central Florida toll road agency.

The Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority voted Tuesday to hire State Rep. Stephen Precourt as executive director for the agency that manages more than 100 miles of toll roads.

Precourt plans on resigning his seat in the Florida Legislature before beginning his new job in order to avoid potential conflicts. That could trigger the need for a special election.

Precourt was picked in a contentious 3-2 vote. The deciding ballot was cast by Florida Department of Transportation District 5 Secretary Noranne Downs.

"I believe Mr. Precourt is the right person for this job."

The vote has been questioned by many as a backroom deal either from Orlando or Tallahassee. Downs works for Governor Scott and was joined in confirming Rep. Precourt by Scott appointees Marco Pena and Scott Batterson.  Batterson tells FOX 35 that people may think there is an appearance of conflict, but there was none for him.

"I've known him personally for a number of years, since 1999. Witnessed nothing but the best of transparency, ethics, fiscal conservatism."

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was on the losing end of the vote.  She complained that by hiring Precourt, the agency would continue to look like it was not an ethical agency.  Precourt did not meet the minimum qualifications laid out by the search firm, and has never worked for a toll agency, but was hired anyway.

"I like him. It's not that I don't think he can't do a good job. I think we had a better qualified candidate who's done the job. I think it's very hard as a citizen and as a toll payer to understand why we would choose somebody who's less qualified. I think it's going to be the question that citizens have. I think it's the question that I have."

Precourt did not attend today's meeting.  He was in Tallahassee for committee meetings. Precourt will have to resign his seat in the Florida Legislature, and will not be able to lobby that body for the next two years.  He is set to earn around $200,000 dollars a year at the new job.

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