Governor must remove developer from expressway board

Gov. Rick Scott faced a big decision when deciding whom to appoint to the scandal-plagued Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.

The agency, after all, has been rocked with controversies in recent years. A grand jury went so far as to describe a "culture of corruption" filled with insiders inappropriately mixing private dealings with public money and a bevy of conflicts of interest.

So whom did Rick Scott appoint?

An insider with multiple conflicts of interest.

His name is Scott Batterson. He's a developer and road engineer. And his conflicts are so significant that Batterson recently had to fill out "potential-conflict disclosure" forms to detail all the ways he makes money off the agency now oversees.

All of which prompts me to ask the following learned and erudite question:

Are you bloody kidding me?!?!

Florida has 18 million people. And you're telling me the best guy you can find is someone who literally makes money off the agency you want him to guide?

Apparently what Batterson lacked in independence, he made up for with political connections. His top two references were Seminole County GOP legislators Chris Dorworth and Jason Brodeur.

It's particularly rich that Dorworth would try to shape the toll-road agency, seeing as how, just last year, Dorworth failed to pay so many tolls that the state started to suspend his license.

Batterson's first "potential-conflict form" discloses that one of Batterson's clients pays his company, IBI Group, to "coordinate with the Expressway Authority representatives."

One imagines Batterson will be able to "coordinate" quite nicely for his clients, now that he's one of the five members controlling the authority.

Even more troubling, though, was Batterson's second conflict of interest: one where Batterson identifies himself as the "project manager" for a massive development called Kelly Park Crossing, controlled by big-time landowner and GOP donor Jim Palmer.

The expressway is poised to spend millions of dollars on Palmer's and Batterson's project for the construction of the Wekiva Parkway.

In fact, the Sentinel recently ran a front-page story describing Palmer as potentially "the biggest beneficiary of the planned $1.8 billion Wekiva Parkway."

Now Palmer's very own "project manager" is a member of the board that will decide how much to pay him.

Sure, there are laws supposed to prohibit Batterson from actually voting on a deal that would put money in his own pocket.

But he's still directing an agency full of staffers who make recommendations that could benefit his clients.

And that is simply ridiculous.