Prostitutes, indictments, and grand juries: The never-ending transportation saga in Central Florida

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In the summer of 2012, former State Representative Mike Horner was rising up the political ladder on his was to bigger and better things in the Florida House of Representatives. As the Chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations budget, Horner was in charge of nearly $10 billion of the state’s budget. He had four more years left to serve in the House and was considered by many to be the future Number Two man to future Speaker-Designate Chris Dorworth. Then the sh*t hit the fan. An ongoing prostitution probe linked Horner to a man running a brothel in Central Florida. Horner resigned quickly from the Florida House. Meanwhile, less than two months later, Dorworth would lose his re-election bid.

Had Horner remained in office, the man knows as “the Congressman” in investigation documents would now most likely be known as the Speaker-Designate and the man sworn in as the next Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives on November 18th, instead of Steve Crissafulli. A Carl Hiassen novel this is not — this actually happened in the state of Florida two years ago.

A year later, Horner was hired to “consult” with a local nonprofit agency funded by the City of Kissimmee, Osceola County, and the Osceola County School District. Known as OLE (Osceola Legislative Effort), Horner was instrumental in advising one of the most important legacies of his term in office, the creation of the Osceola County Expressway Authority.

In 2014, Horner watched as that legacy was dismantled by incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner. Inspired by two grand jury investigations, Gardiner’s vision was that of a regional expressway authority that encompassed Orange, Lake, Seminole, and Osceola counties.  It was a vision with a broader Authority Board, made up of local elected officials, who would make transportation decisions on behalf of the region and not solely by county.  Osceola County opposed those efforts and managed to find enough breath for another few years of survival.

Unless the Gardiner vision could be altered.

Today, Horner serves as a consultant to Team Florida, an entity comprised of the state’s expressway and transit authorities along with the state Department of Transportation and private sector companies who do business with these agencies. Team Florida is chaired by Atlee Mercer, the current Chairman of the Osceola County Expressway Authority.  It will be interesting to see the direction these two Osceola County leaders take this organization. Their first shot will be at the end of this month, when Horner leads a panel of four former colleagues  – Senators Jeff Brandes and Darren Soto and Representatives Jason Brodeur and Lake Ray – on a legislative panel.

It would appear Osceola County’s transportation officials are ramping up their efforts to stay alive. But who can win when you are standing in the way of the Senate President Designate’s vision?

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.