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State senator wants tighter rules for Expressway Authority

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Channel 9 learned Friday State Attorney Jeff Ashton is investigating whether three members of the Expressway Authority board broke the law last year when they voted to force out the interim executive director.

Now, state Sen. David Simmons wants to tighten rules involving business relationships between its vendors, employees and board members.

Simmons said the new code of ethics he's working to include in his bill to create a regional Expressway Authority is aimed at preventing more controversies involving the toll agency.

"Unfortunately, the Expressway Authority has had a history of controversy," said Simmons. "It's time to come up with a long-term solution to deal with that."

Simmons told Channel 9 he has significant concern over Friday's strongly worded letter from State Attorney Jeff Ashton to the agency about his "reasonable suspicion" laws may have been broken last year before board members Scott Batterson, Marco Pena and Florida Department of Transportation district secretary Noranne Downs voted to force out interim executive director Max Crumit.

"It's very important we investigate this in a manner that provides due process to everyone and not make decisions that are not based upon all the facts," said Simmons.

Simmons calls his plan a "road map" for the agency, and he's researching the ethics rules of other government bodies.

He's considering a proposal prohibiting board members and the director from entering into contracts with relatives' businesses, keeping business relationships that create recurring conflicts of interest and taking jobs with agency contractors within two years of leaving the agency.

On Wednesday morning, the board, including the three members whose actions are under investigation, will vote on whether to officially hire former state representative Steve Precourt as the new director or hold off as Ashton recommends.