State Attorney Ashton tells Expressway Authority to delay Precourt Hire

The Orlando Sentinel reported this afternoon (story HERE) that State Attorney Jeff Ashton has told the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority to delay the hiring of their next designated Executive Director and former State Representative Steve Precourt.

Precourt was voted in by the Authority last week in a controversial 3 to 2 vote. He then resigned from his State House 44 seat setting up a special election for the Windermere seat.

There were questions over Precourt’s qualifications and communications that may have taken place between board members that may have violated the State’s Sunshine laws that prohibit discussing political matters in private.

Ashton cites “lack of candor and questionable lapses in memory” by some of the witnesses as reasons to delay the hire. He’s been investigating the board’s activities for several months.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was a vocal opponent of the decision to hire Precourt and said the board would be “taking a step back” in selecting the termed out State Representative. He also didn’t meet the minimum qualifications for the post.

The Expressway Authority handles the expenditures of your toll money.

This move by Ashton is not a complete surprise but raises two very big questions local Politicos will be asking.

Why didn’t Ashton come to this decision before the board voted to select Precourt? Many believe that Ashton is trying to do too much at once in the State Attorney Office. The former Casey Anthony Prosecutor has been trying cases, standing up a Veterans Court, as well as other duties in the massive office.

If Precourt is denied, what will he do next? He will be on the outside looking in and would have to review all of his other political options, which could include entering another race this year.

Precourt's hiring will be delayed by Ashton's investigation

Precourt’s hiring will be delayed by Ashton’s investigation

Textgate Investigation – Orange Commissioners Broke Law, None with Nefarious Intent

This morning State Attorney Jeff Ashton released the findings of the “textgate” investigation and stated that the members of the Orange County Commission broke public record law but none committed the crime with ‘nefarious intentions”.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs as well as Commissioners Scott Boyd, Fred Brummer, Jennifer Thompson, and former Commissioner John Martinez deleted text messages that took place during the September 11th Orange County Sick Time Hearings. They will all have to pay a $500 dollar fine or risk being prosecuted.

“There is insufficient evidence to establish that when these officials deleted text messages that they knew they were public record” the report says. It goes on to read “There is no evidence of any intent to hide the involvement of any citizens who devised a plan to defeat the initiative” Ashton has a presser scheduled for 3PM.

Much like the driver who misses a speed limit sign, it’s still an infraction. Text messages are public record and deleting them is against the law.

The early reactions from enemies of the commission is disappointment. Many of the activists and operatives of the sick time initiative felt the punishment wasn’t heavy enough. On social media there is disappointment in Ashton, calls for Commissioners to face jail time and removal from office.

It’s unlikely that based on the strength of this report alone, that any serious changes on the Commission will be made or that it will hurt the future political plans of the lawmakers involved.

You can read the full report HERE.

The Commission Broke Public Record Laws when they deleted texts but there is was evidence of nefarious behavior

The Commission Broke Public Record Laws when they deleted texts but there is was evidence of nefarious behavior

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Orlando Sentinel: ‘Textgate’ probe results come out Wednesday

Working with the local Newspaper makes both their publication and this blog better. I recently got to do this with my hometown newspaper the Orlando Sentinel. The findings of an investigative report concerning “Text Gate” or text messages released during the Orange County Sick Time Fight Come out tomorrow. Here is what I had to say and…


Frank Torres, a Republican political analyst, said that if anyone in Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ administration looks bad in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement probe, it might make her road to re-election a little more difficult next year.

Torres said Jacobs, a Republican, already has been pro-active in the aftermath of the affair. She successfully pushed to put text-tracking software on county phones and coaxed Orange elected leaders to switch to public-issued devices for official business. But the probe’s results could force her to take more actions, he said.


Wednesday Morning Political Headlines: Holder addresses Zimmerman Verdict at NAACP Convention

Halfway through the week, here we go.

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the NAACP Convention taking place here in Orange County and as expected he spoke about the George Zimmerman case and the Not Guilty Verdict in the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. He expressed concern over the verdict and the Stand Your Ground law.

WKMG Local 6(VIDEO) Attorney General Eric Holder criticizes stand-your-ground laws at NAACP Conference

WFTV 9 Eyewitness News: (VIDEO) U.S. Attorney Gen. Holder addresses NAACP

Orlando Sentinel: (VIDEO) AG Holder addresses stand-your-ground laws at NAACP convention

WOFL FOX 35: VIDEO AG strongly criticizes stand-your-ground laws

CF News 13: Democratic state lawmakers call for changes to Stand Your Ground law

WESH 2: State Attorney Jeff Ashton on Zimmerman: The system worked

Holder addressed the NAACP Convention yesterday

Holder addressed the NAACP Convention yesterday

Unlike Casey, Zimmerman Trial Verdict won’t Spawn Political Spin-Off Drama

Sanford had the attention of the nation Saturday night as the verdict came down on the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman was found not guilty on the charges of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter over the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin.

This is the 2nd major trial to take place in Central Florida in 3 years. The Casey Anthony murder trial was an even bigger spectacle with a media village engulfing an empty a lot on Orange Avenue and like Zimmerman, Anthony was also found Not Guilty in the death of her young daughter Caylee.

The end of that trial was the beginning of one of the biggest political stories of 2012. I’m talking about the path that led Former Casey Anthony Prosecutor, and current Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Jeff Ashton to victory over his former boss and 20 year incumbent Lawson Lamar.

The “Casey Race” was one of the nastiest contests of the previous election cycle and in my opinion, the biggest political rivalry of the year. It was high drama with both candidates determined to talk about the Public Office at stake, but with the cloud of the biggest trial in the county’s history over them. Ashton ultimately won that race, after a brilliant sequence of personal and political decisions made, capitalizing on a case he actually lost.

The Pundits won’t see that kind of Political Drama this time. Not here in Seminole and not in Duval County where the Case also has roots. Here is why.

This case wasn’t as “sexy” as the Casey Anthony Trial: Keeping things in perspective, a young man is dead but the media and the audiences involved wanted the dirt behind the stories involved. The audiences were rooting for Ashton and his fellow prosecutor, Linda Drane-Burdick because they wanted answers and Anthony herself was an easy villain. Who killed Caylee? How could a mother go so long with out reporting her child missing? How was Casey’s party lifestyle involved? Who knew what?

We know what happened in the Zimmerman trial. It was a question over how the jury would interpret the evidence and both party’s cases. There was no mystery involved.

Both Sides have Allies and Enemies: It was Casey against the world during her trial, that wasn’t the case with Zimmerman, where you had strangers donating thousands to his defense account. Leaders of the Black Community organized rallies attended by thousands in Trayvon’s memory and calling for justice. The response on social media has had voices sticking up for the Martin family and George Zimmerman.

Any future candidates from this case will have a built in block of voters with a negative opinion of them.

“Cashing In” on this trial won’t be as easy: Ashton, Defense Attorney Jose Baez and eventually (if the courts go her way) Casey Anthony herself, all found a way to make money from that case. Ashton used revenues from a Book Deal, Media Tour, and Public Appearances to infuse his campaign with cash along the way. No one involved in this trial will be able to replicate his success in that regard.

And if you don’t like Judge Debra Nelson, you’ve got time and Name ID against you: Nelson was unopposed and re-elected in 2012, that means potential challengers will have to wait six years to take her on. Even if she was up for re-election, Casey Anthony Judge Belvin Perry enjoyed positive Name ID and a significant fundraising advantage against his challenger last year and was easily re-elected. Nelson has her critics but ultimately her disciplined handling of this case will be favorable.

Perhaps the best effect of the Casey Race was that it got to public interested in one of the more important races on the ballot. It’s unfortunate that voters don’t pay more attention to the contests until they’re seeing the results play out on cable tv.

And they’re not going to see it after this trial.

By the way, Ashton will be personally prosecuting the 4 young suspects behind the recent shootings in Osceola County. A statement from one of the four alleged shooters say they did it “because it was fun” Personally taking cases was one of his biggest talking points on the campaign trail last year.

The Zimmerman trial won't spin off into any political grudge matches

The Zimmerman trial won’t spin off into any political grudge matches

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