ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -An Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority board member who resigned from his post less than a month after another board member was indicted for bribery has agreed to plead guilty to violating Florida’s Sunshine Law, according to State Attorney Jeff Ashton.
Marco Peña resigned his board seat in May via a memo. He had served on the board since his appointment by Gov. Rick Scott in July 2013. At the time, he cited personal reasons for his departure.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, Peña has been cooperating with investigators into business activities surrounding the Expressway Authority and has provided sworn testimony regarding alleged violations of the Sunshine Law, which calls for proceedings of government agencies to be open or available to the public.
Peña’s resignation followed the indictment of board member Scott Batterson by a grand jury on felony bribery and two felony counts of solicitation for receiving unlawful compensation. Scott suspended him from the board the same day.
The charges against Batterson stem from an investigation by Ashton into the removal of the authority’s former director, Max Crumit. While investigating emails exchanged among authority board members and attending meetings, the State Attorney’s Office said concerns were raised over Batterson’s connection to a land deal near the Wekiva Parkway, the northwestern portion of a loop surrounding Orlando which will connect Interstate 4 to the Western Beltway (SR 429) in Apopka.
If convicted, Batterson faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. Peña will not serve any jail time or probation as part of the plea deal, but he will pay a fine of $500 and any associated court costs.
The Expressway Authority has continued to operate with its three remaining members; however, its very existence remains in question. Later this week, Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law a bill (SB 230) that transforms the agency into a regional authority and disbands what is left of the five-member board, first created by the state Legislature in 1963.