Expressway Authority board member indicted on bribery charges posts bond



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The vice chairman of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, who was indicted on bribery charges, bonded out of jail Thursday night.

Scott Batterson turned himself in to the Seminole County Jail hours after the indictment on a charge of bribery and two counts of unlawful compensation in the investigation into three of the Expressway Authority board members.

State Attorney Jeff Ashton said he believes Batterson will fully cooperate with the investigation and doesn’t believe he is a flight risk.

Judge Belvin Perry set Batterson's bail at $2,800.

Batterson turned himself in to the Seminole County Jail around 9 p.m. Thursday and posted bond several hours later.

"These are second-degree felonies punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years in the Department of Corrections or, I believe, it's a $15,000 fine or such a sentence as the court should determine," Ashton said following the announcement of the indictment.

Batterson was suspended immediately and Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement, saying “Today, my office took immediate action to suspend Scott Batterson from the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority. All public officials must be held to the highest ethical standards and we support State Attorney Jeff Ashton’s efforts to hold public officials accountable."

The Orange County grand jury was investigating whether Expressway Authority board members Batterson, Marco Pena and Florida Department of Transportation District Secretary Noranne Downs secretly plotted a takeover to remove the executive director and replace him with state Rep. Steve Precourt, who did not meet the job requirements.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs is not under investigation, but she did testify Thursday morning as a witness.

Jacobs said the panel members asked very insightful questions and said she has confidence in the way the investigation is being handled.

Jacobs testified without a lawyer. She said she did not need one.

Jacobs answered questions for about an hour and 15 minutes.

"How do you feel after having been through this?" WFTV reporter Kathi Belich asked.

"I feel good. They are very engaged. They are asking a lot of questions. I feel very good," Jacobs replied.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, so she could not get into specifics.

Batterson’s charges could reflect a scenario where Batterson is accused of offering Expressway Authority work to a contractor in exchange for their agreement to hire the subcontractors Batterson wanted them to hire.

Downs was also called to testify Thursday before the grand jury; Board Chairman Walter Ketcham was set to testify as well.

Ashton did not say if Downs and Pena could face charges similar to Batterson’s.