Expressway Authority votes to keep board chairman in place

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

The Expressway Authority voted on Monday to keep its board chairman in place against the wishes of two board members who are under investigation.

State attorney Jeff Ashton warned against changing the leadership until he's done investigating possible Sunshine Law violations.

Channel 9's Kathi Belich said the makeup of the board could change drastically in a few months if lawmakers create a regional authority.

Expressway Authority boardmember Marco Pena pushed for a vote Monday, apparently hoping to oust Chairman Walter Ketcham.

"With everything that's been going on, we need to move forward," said Pena.

Pena and board members Scott Batterson and Noranne Downs, who is state transportation district secretary, are being investigated by the state attorney for possibly plotting behind the scenes last year to force out executive director Max Crumit.

All three later voted to replace Crumit with state Rep. Steve Precourt, who did not meet the job qualifications.

Ashton urged the board not to hire Precourt or change leadership until he's done investigating. 

Two of Ashton's investigators were at Monday's meeting and watched Downs break ranks with Batterson and Pena and vote with Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Ketcham to stay the course.

"I said at the last meeting and I think I'll be consistent, I think we should just wait until the investigation's over," said Downs.

After the meeting, Belich tried to ask Pena why he believes change would have brought stability, but he avoided Channel 9's cameras.

Ketcham said he's the right guy to protect the interests of the tollpayers. 

"I've always felt that I brought a stable solution to this agency," he said. "I've been chairman since 2010. I think we've made great strides in all aspects."

The plan for a regional toll agency will be up for debate on the Senate floor Thursday. It's expected to be signed into law this year.

In a few months, with the exception of Jacobs, there might be an all new board that includes Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties.