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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A frantic exchange to protect Sansom's $25M



One of the first and most eye-catching revelations about House Speaker Ray Sansom's relationship with his new employer, Northwest Florida State College, was a stroke of budget wizardry that turned a $1-million appropriation this year into $25.5-million. The money is going to a new/renovated student services building that will include a bookstore and cafe.

But college officials were sure worried it might not pass the smell test. Documents obtained by the Times/Herald reveal that officials worked with Sansom and a top staffer, Mike Hansen, to make sure the money was spared from a veto by Gov. Charlie Crist. Here's how it went down on May 5:

1:07 p.m.: A college official e-mails President Bob Richburg to say he got a call from another official wondering who is working to protect the appropriation. "I told him I had been sending emails to a couple of different people but that I thought Ray Sansom was talking directly with the governor," writes Gary Yancey, VP for administrative services.

2:45 p.m.: Richburg forwards the message to Sansom. "This item is still too important for me to decide not to pass on to you," Richburg writes. "Last year, Valencia took a veto on a major building that they had been assured was protected by the governor."

3:11 p.m.: Sansom forwards message to the top budget staffer, Mike Hansen (now Sansom's chief of staff). "Please read."

4:25 p.m.: Hansen replies, "Speaker D: I have talked with Jerry (McDaniel, Crist's budget chief) about this and am expecting no problem, but I will continue to make inquires as we get closer to the time. You might want to mention your interest in this to the Governor when he comes over to sign the State College Bill."

We've already reported that Sansom's $110,000 job was not advertised. Now it looks like the college even eased the rules a bit on the qualifications. The job description says a doctorate degree is preferred but Sansom only has a master's in education.

The Palm Beach Post this evening added an interesting nugget to the controversy, noting that Sansom's job application was faxed from the speaker's office. Sansom's spokeswoman, Jill Chamberlin, told the newspaper that it was " not appropriate" but that a staffer made an "innocent mistake."

-- By Alex Leary, Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:08pm]


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