Orlando Sentinel by Jason Garcia and Beth Kassab
September 11, 2019
Even before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took office in January, people were seeking an appointment to the board that runs Orlando International Airport. Though the agency isn’t widely known by name, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority controls a $4 billion construction budget – and seats on the board in charge of that spending are highly coveted.
Applications had begun trickling in when, two weeks after DeSantis was sworn in, four people applied in five days: A hand doctor, a gym owner, a real-estate investor and a medical malpractice defense lawyer. Fifteen people ultimately applied in all, but those were the four DeSantis picked when he announced his GOAA appointments on Feb. 27.
Six months later, after a power struggle that has been waged from the aviation authority’s chambers inside the Orlando airport terminal to the floor of the Florida Senate in Tallahassee, the four DeSantis appointees are on the verge of taking command. With the help of another DeSantis supporter who was already on the seven-member board, they have nearly succeeded in forcing out the agency’s longtime general counsel and are poised to award new business to people they prefer.
At the same time, DeSantis, like other governors before him, is raising tens of thousands of dollars from people who contract with the aviation authority – contracts that the governor’s appointees can now control.