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Florida Orange County Expressway Plays Dirty Poltics

The Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority (OOCEA) Board gives new meaning to low end politics. The Expressway Authority Board selected an Executive Director in January named Steve Precourt who had been a State Legislature Representative that gave up his Legislative seat for the Expressway Authority Executive Director position which pays $185,000 annually. The Expressway Authority has an annual operating budget of 51.5 million dollars and 58 employees. Just another normal day except for a few strange things.

How Precourt was able to get on the final candidate list for Executive Director of is a mystery. Only two of the final four candidates that applied for the Expressway Authority Executive Director position were qualified. Precourt has no management experience running a toll agency which was a requirement for the job. Despite lacking the required experience the Expressway Authority Board members selected Precourt by a vote of 3-2. This selection came in the wake of an ongoing investigation by State Attorney Jeff Ashton for possible violations of Florida State Sunshine Laws that ousted the previous Executive Director. Stepping back for a moment the former Executive Director Max Crumit resigned after a vote of no confidence from the Board. The no confidence vote from some Board members comes amid back door politics that are being investigated. While State Attorney Ashton was still investigating the Expressway Authority he requested a delay in the hiring of Precourt.

Ignoring the request by the State's Attorney, the Expressway Authority moved ahead to hire Precourt. With the Expressway Authority Board vote Precourt could not wait to start and actually started working at the Expressway Authority before a contract could be agreed on. After a week of unofficially on the job Precourt resigned due to changes he did not like in the contract. While declining the position, Precourt cryptically kept his litigation options open.

Precourt's threat of litigating a job that he declined because he did not like the contract is a long shot. Unless he knows something we don't. The real litigation was passing over qualified candidates. Ironically one of the Board members in favor of Precourt actually stated his responsibility as a Board member is to protect the taxpayers. Perhaps that Board member did not consider hiring discrimination litigation.

The posting for the OOCEA Executive Director position states as a requirement the candidate have 8 years of experience operating toll roads. As a result of that requirement there were 40 applicants which eventually fielded 4 Executive Director finalists. Precourt who has no toll road management experience somehow made that short list and was ultimately selected. It was amazing that one Board member deemed the job requirements as “guidelines”. In all likelihood had the job requirements been stated as guidelines there would have been over 400 candidates applying and there would have still been better candidates than Precourt.

It was the most vocal Expressway Board members who was appointed by Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott that pushed the former Director out and Precourt in as the Expressway Authority Executive Director. Precourt does have some experience as the Republican Majority Leader for Florida House of Representative. Governor Scott should take a page out of NJ Governor Christie's Bridge-gate play book and make some changes to the Expressway Authority Board membership quickly.

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