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'Culture of corruption' cited in toll road agency

A "culture of corruption" permeated greater Orlando's toll road agency for years because contractors of the agency were continually hit up for political contributions, said a Orange County grand jury report released Friday.

The main culprit, according to the report, was former Chairman Allan Keen, a Winter Park developer who resigned in 2006 after four years on the job amid a scandal over how the authority managed its money.

The seven-page report, sealed for 16 months at Keen's behest, was opened only after changes — including the removal of quotation marks — were made to satisfy the noted Republican fundraiser. No criminal charges have been filed against him as a result of the 2007 grand jury investigation.

Keen raised far more than previously thought: $468,000 for 18 candidates, the report said.

Among those receiving money were Orange County Mayor and current authority Chairman Rich Crotty; Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Florida; former U.S. Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando; former state Rep. Randy Johnson, R-Celebration; Seminole County Commissioner Mike McLean; and Orange County Commissioner Gary Segal.

Such activities, said Orange/Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar, "may be legal, but it sure as heck isn't right."

Keen's attorney, Robert Leventhal, maintains his client did nothing wrong.

"There was no culture of corruption," Leventhal said. "They can use those words, but there was no culture of corruption."

The candidate Keen apparently raised the most money for was Crotty. The report placed the number at nearly $63,000.

Crotty disputed that figure, saying his records indicate it was less than half that amount.

The report said Keen used two contractors to fetch money for him: Ron Pecora, who held the agency marketing contract from 1994 until 2006; and Bob Paulson of PBS&J of Tampa, which has been the authority's main engineering consultant since 1982.

Such fundraising, the report said, raises the specter that the only way to maintain working relationships with the authority was to pay.

'Culture of corruption' cited in toll road agency 02/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 27, 2009 11:53pm]

    

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