Is OOCEA Chairman Walter Ketchum the Biggest Scumbag in Orange County, or the Biggest Idiot?
By Jacob Engels
The saga of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority took a turn for the worse on Friday, when short-termed Executive Director Steve Precourt sent a letter to the authority accusing its chairman, local lawyer Walter Ketchum of having “back door dealings” with state attorney Jeff Ashton.
According to the Sentinel, Ketchum reportedly responded by saying Precourt’s allegations were “an absolute lie… this is just another political stunt by a guy who is not interested in the expressway authority or Orange County except for what he can get out of them.”
Then, he proceeds to explain all the backdoor communication he had directly with Jeff Ashton leading up to the letter.
I have concluded that Walter Ketchum is either a complete scumbag or a complete idiot, and probably both.
Let’s not, for a second, underestimate or understate the momentousness of Precourt’s accusations.
If Jeff Ashton, the same state attorney that blew the Casey Anthony trial and who made national news a few months ago by “accidentally releasing” two convicted murderers from prison, is found to have colluded with the chairman of an independent government authority over who the “leadership of that authority” was, meaning the chairman and the executive director, then it will be the biggest single scandal in central Florida in my adult life. Playing politics is a strict no-no for prosecutors.
First, let’s deal with what Ketchum said about Steve Precourt. Precourt was raised in Orlando, attending Bishop Moore High School before going off to University of Florida. He has raised five children in Orange County, and he served as a member of the legislature for seven years. In the legislature, the guy was a rock star: Finance and Tax Chairman, State Affairs Chairman and Majority Leader.
Professionally, Steve Precourt invested his entire adult life in transportation and traffic engineering, running an engineering firm here in Orange County. Yet Ketchum the Scumbag Idiot says Precourt is “not interested in the expressway authority or Orange County except for what he can get out of them”.
Really Chairman? Apparently the power of being chairman of a volunteer board has caused some cloudy thinking because any sane person would say that Steve Precourt spent a whole LIFETIME caring about Orange County and transportation.
Steve Precourt resigned an elected office to take a job he was promised. According to this letter, he spent thousands of dollars to get a blind trust set up to avoid looking like there was a conflict of interest, only to have the Scumbag Idiot chairman ambush him at a meeting and change the terms of the agreement.
This man, who resigned his elected office in his final term, REFUSED THE AMENDED JOB OFFER PLAN PROPOSED BY CHAIRMAN WALTER KETCHUM. Yet the chairman says Precourt is a no-good, dirty sonofabitch who doesn’t care at all. Who is the good guy here and who is the scumbag?
I don’t know about you, but we here at the East Orlando Post don’t think a $185,000 year gig with a car allowance and a fancy office and staff is anything to sneeze at. Precourt walked away from that because he didn’t like the way he was treated.
Now, Precourt claims that he has people that will vouch to law enforcement that Ketchum was bragging about orchestrating the letter that led to his altered contract, termination and, coincidentally, the retention of Walter Ketchum as chairman.
At the time, Ketchum changed the contract because of the advice of the state attorney. Now, we find out that Ketchum shaped that advice.
Scumbag, or idiot? I can’t decide. If he colluded, he’s a scumbag. If he bragged about it, which he pretty obviously did, or Precourt wouldn’t have known to call him out on it in the first place, he is possibly the biggest moron on the planet earth. Hey Walt – if you have a state attorney willing to play ball to kill off your Executive Director and keep you as chairman, it is probably a great idea to shut up about it.
The Sentinel describes Ketchum’s characterizations of his involvement with the letter as this:
“Ashton sent his letter a week before the board planned to meet and hire Precourt. Ketcham said Ashton told him the day before that he was sending the letter.
But, Ketcham said, he was not involved in what Ashton wrote, telling him that it should be sent to agency attorney Joe Passiatore and cautioning him not to order the board to do anything for fear it could lead to a lawsuit from Precourt.”
Ketchum ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THE STATE ATTORNEY REACHED OUT TO HIM. Ketchum acknowledges that he directed the state attorney to not send the letter to him, but to the general counsel.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WALTER KETCHUM EVEN SAYS HE TOLD JEFF ASHTON WHAT NOT TO PUT IN THE LETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ketchum does not apparently understand what a backdoor dealing is, because right after he denied having any back door dealings, he ADMITS TO BACK DOOR DEALINGS.
Oh, and just for laughs, Precourt points out that the board, under Ketchum’s leadership, has managed to find itself $80 million short of where they need to be, meaning that projects will have to be delayed or tolls will have to be raised. I’m leaning toward “IDIOT”.
Let us not forget that it was Ketchum that requested the whole Sunshine Law violation investigation in the first place. Did he place a call to Jeff Ashton before that, or did Ashton call him? This is serious… and CRAZY stuff.
It is time to ask a serious and terrifying question: Is the state attorney playing politics by threatening legal retribution against people he doesn’t like publicly?
America is the greatest country the world has ever known. At the core of this is the understanding that you are free from persecution by law enforcement. That this could happen to the immediate past majority leader of the Florida House should send a chilling warning to every citizen in Orange and Osceola counties that if the state attorney doesn’t like your politics, you might be facing jail time, and you might lose your job. If it could happen to Steve Precourt, chances are really damn good it can happen to you.
One way or the other, somebody HAS to take a look at this. The Governor should immediately remand this to a special prosecutor to review the actions of the OOCEA Board and the interaction between Ketchum and the state attorney. At the very least, we must acknowledge that these two guys planning this out removes any appearance of this being an unbiased, fair process.
If this was a judge and not a prosecutor, the judge would be forced to recuse themselves immediately. I simply can believe that Jeff Ashton, who seems to be a decent enough guy, would be stupid or dirty enough to do what Ketchum claims he did, but we absolutely NEED someone to investigate it.
Hell, now I’m thinking – the Democrat state attorney has gone after eight people for Sunshine Law violations. All eight are Republicans. He’s never looked at a Democrat for that. Does this smell right to you?
One thing is for sure: whether Ketchum is a scumbag or an idiot, he is a very, very bad and dangerous guy. I would support getting rid of the expressway authority altogether if it meant getting rid of the guy that leads it.
What really pisses me off is that Precourt is going to sue Ketchum, and he’s going to win, but the legal defense and damages he gets paid will come from the tollpayers of Orange County. If anything here is criminal, it’s the thought of that.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org