Not so fast Steve Precourt.
On Jan. 9, 53-year-old former Florida House majority leader resigned his $29,000 a year job as an Orlando representative to take a job as executive director at the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority that would pay him between $175,000 to $200,000 a year. (The proposed contract pays him $185,000).
It was a job he’s wanted since at least 2011 when he first applied for it, and he only had until November before term limits would have forced him out, so it was a big win for Precourt.
All looked good until Friday, when Jeffrey Ashton, state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit (which covers Orange and Osceola counties) issued a letter asking the authority to hold off on hiring Precourt.
Ashton’s office is investigating irregularities with how Max Crumit, the last executive director, was voted out of his position last year, a series of events that suggest collusion among board members and the upper reaches of the Department of Transportation that could involve a violation of the Sunshine Law.
“While I hesitate to involve myself and my office in another agency’s internal personnel affairs, I would be remiss in my duties...not to request the Authority delay any changes in the leadership of the organization until the conclusion of my investigation, in that it may discover information relevant to that decision.”
Ashton said officials involved in that decision have shown his investigation a “lack of candor and questionable lapses in memory” that have only reinforced his suspicions that Precourt’s hiring may be somewhat involved in how his would-be predecessor left.
“The public has a right to know what did or did not occur and Mr. Precourt deserves the opportunity to accept his new employment free from a cloud of suspicion,” Ashton writes.
UPDATE: Two hours later, Joseph Passiatore, the authority's general counsel, emailed out a letter back to Ashton in exceptionally cordial terms, considering the circumstances.
"Allow me to state that the Authority is very appreciative of the efforts your office has expended to date in reviewing certain Sunshine Law allegations," Passiatore said. "I have forwarded today's letter to the board members and am confident that they will give your recommendations the utmost consideration at next Wednesday's regular monthly board meeting."
So basically, it's up to the board members to decide if they want to hire Precourt.
"I've reviewed the State Attorneys letter and respect their diligence and independent opinion," Precourt said in a statement emailed out by Michelle Maikisch, spokeswoman for the authority. "While they have an ongoing investigation, we have important and time sensitive work to do here at the Expressway Authority. I serve the Board, and will work hard to carry out their policy directions."
"We?" "I serve the board?"
From his own statement, it sounds like Precourt's hiring is a done deal.
Read Passiatore response and proposed contract: Download Passiatoreletter