Instead, FDOT has let Salter off with a hundred-grand assessment. And the loss of just 35 older billboards over the next six years.
Somehow, Brinton said by e-mail, “the enforcement effort went off the rails big time.” FDOT, the very department that the grand jury accused of “flagrant violation of the law” in its dealings with Salter, in a “collusion among public employees and a private party,” was allowed to decide the outcome.
“FDOT should have engaged outside counsel (certainly counsel from outside the FDOT) to pursue what would be a public interest lawsuit and anyone tied to the original debacle or to any cover-up should never have been placed in any position to influence the enforcement action,” Brinton wrote.
Bill Jonson, president of Scenic Florida, said Wednesday he was “shocked” by the settlement. “It makes me wonder if folks like myself weren’t here, what they’d be doing.”
It’s not as if FDOT was reacting to some great public clamor for more billboards, or demands to get rid of those damn trees along the interstate. Nothing about the original permits or the piddling settlement has a thing to with the public good. This was just about money and influence and the smelly grease that lubricates state government.
A year ago, the grand jury had suggested, rather plaintively in retrospect: “As the law and the FDOT rules have a valid purpose for public good, your grand jury recommends and expects all of us, including elected and appointed government officials, to follow the laws and rules whether we agree with them or not.”
In Florida, that seems too much to ask.