Governor, listen to Jacobs and get rid of X-way conflict of interest

Last month, I reported that the newest member of Orange County's scandal-plagued expressway authority has major conflicts of interest.

Specifically, engineer Scott Batterson is a "project manager" for a billion-dollar development whose future lives or dies on expressway decisions — something he didn't reveal until after he was appointed.

It didn't take the public long to see the problem. Readers overwhelmingly called for Batterson to step down.

And now Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has amped up the volume, saying that Batterson never should have been appointed in the first place.

Jacobs went so far as to pen a lengthy memo to Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Batterson, asking him to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

Scott should do precisely that — and then fix the mess he created with Batterson by getting him off the board.

It's silly that we're even forced to have these debates.

There are more than 18 million people in this state, for Pete's sake. Surely, the governor could find one whose personal finances don't mingle with the public's business.

And don't give me this baloney about how valuable it is to get guidance from people who make money off roads.

You know who makes that argument? People who make money off roads.

There are scads of Floridians whose independent counsel could benefit the public. We're talking about retired financial experts, college professors, government watchdogs, small-business men and businesswomen — people with no vested interests, except to ensure that motorists have good roads at the cheapest possible prices.

Besides, building roads has never been the expressway's problem. Bad decisions that waste toll payers' money are.

Also problematic has been the infusion of politics and conflicts — so much so that a grand jury said a "culture of corruption" enveloped the entire agency a few years back.

And politics were again involved in Batterson's appointment.

Among those championing his appointment was state Rep. Chris Dorworth.

Yet what the governor — and public — didn't know was that both Dorworth and Batterson were making money off a major development project whose fate is tied to the Wekiva Parkway.

The development is called Kelly Park Crossing.

It's a $1 billion project near Apopka, slated to have more than 600 acres of homes, stores, offices and — most importantly — the one and only planned interchange on the entire Wekiva Parkway.

As the Sentinel reported in September: "Without the parkway, Kelly Park Crossing would have to be slashed by 90 percent because local roads could not handle all the traffic it would generate, records indicate."

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