Carlton says she would have rejected Jay Odom's hangar
No one was closer to Ray Sansom in the final moments of the 2007 budget negotiations than state Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey. She signed off on Sansom's wish to add $6 million to the budget for a building at Destin Airport.
But Carlton, former chief budget writer in the Senate, has told investigators that she was not informed the project could benefit developer Jay Odom's corporate jet business. If she knew, she would have not agreed to put the item in the conference report. "The item would have then gone to Senate President Ken Pruitt and House Speaker Rubio for review," according to a report by House special prosecutor Melanie Hines.
The disclosure sheds more light on what went on behind the scenes and what top lawmakers may have known -- or not known -- about the airport deal, now the subject of a House tribunal and a criminal investigation.
In a proposed pretrial stipulation in the House hearing, set to begin Monday, Hines arrives at the same conclusion as the initial House investigator, Steve Kahn.
"Sansom's actions were largely self-serving, while also serving the personal interests of two of Sansom's close friends and supporters, Odom and (Bob) Richburg. Sansom's actions can reasonably be interpreted as disrespectful of the trust placed in him by his colleagues and by the public to conduct himself with independence and integrity," Hines writes.
"According to the proof to be offered at the hearing, Sansom has violated the principles of Legislative ethics: autonomy, accountability and responsibility. ... The misconduct of one legislator, and the public's reaction to it, negatively affects the body as a whole. Representative Sansom's actions, as described herein, have threatened the honor of the Florida House of Representatives."
Sansom's attorney, Gloria Fletcher, also filed a pre-hearing statement laying out a defense. She states that Sansom "had no control or input into decisions made by the college as they relate to the location of any of the college's facilities or with whom the college would enter business agreements."
She also says that "all appropriations designated to inure to the benefit of the college in the General Appropriations Act for 2007 and 2008 were approved by majority vote of both the House and Senate, and signed by the governor."
The question for the five-member Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct will be: Did any of those other lawmakers and the governor know what Sansom was doing?
Carlton, who is on the list of potential witnesses, seems to suggest the answer is no.