BRADENTON, Fla. - Former Florida state Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, declined to become the next executive director of the embattled Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.
OOCEA Chairman Walter Ketcham said Precourt decided not to accept a month-to-month agency contract, which was reduced from the five-year agreement originally offered to him because of an ongoing investigation into potentially improper board communications when the process to seek a new director began.
"I am disappointed that Mr. Precourt has chosen not to join us," Ketcham said in a brief release Jan. 24. "We wish him well in his future endeavors."
It was not immediately clear what Precourt planned to do next. He resigned from the Legislature to take the Expressway Authority job when he negotiated the agreement but before it was confirmed by the full board. He is also an engineer and president of Precourt Solutions LLC, an Orlando-based transportation and infrastructure consulting firm.
The authority will continue operating with an interim management team, and the board will discuss the process of hiring a new director at its Feb. 26 meeting, Ketcham said.
The OOCEA has known for some time that the state attorney's office is reviewing the circumstances leading up to votes by three board members to find a new agency head early last fall.
Ketcham asked for an investigation to determine if there had been contact among board members that violated Florida's law prohibiting two or more members from discussing an issue prior to a vote.
The authority moved forward with a national search for a director and voted to negotiate with Precourt.
Before the contract received final confirmation, State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton asked the board to postpone action because his review of communications of some board members raised a "reasonable suspicion that Florida law may have been violated," and he said the case warranted further investigation.
On Jan. 22, OOCEA attorney Joe Passiatore told the board that not approving a contract might open the agency to a suit since Precourt acted in reliance of his selection.
The board voted to offer Precourt a month-to-month contract and one month's severance pay upon termination in case the state attorney's investigation resulted in charges that could affect prior decisions to search for a new director.