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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Grand jury will investigate Sansom



Meggs A grand jury in Leon County has just decided it wants State Attorney Willie Meggs to investigate House Speaker Ray Sansom's dealings with a state college that hired him to a six-figure job.

Meggs announced the news outside the Leon County Courthouse room shortly before 1:30 p.m.

"From this point on, we'll be calling witnesses, putting witnesses in front of the grand jury," Meggs said. “I don’t know what we’re going to find until we look. We will get the people who have this information and present it to the grand jury.”

He declined to say what he told the jurors but said he would now begin to collect information -- e-mails, public records and witness statements -- surrounding Sansom's getting the $110,000 job at Northwest Florida State College two months ago and $6-million he secured in tax dollars for a college emergency training and response center at Destin Airport.

raysansom Sansom responded in a statement released through his office:

“I have acted honestly in all matters, including in my work as a state legislator. The complaints are based on news articles, not personal knowledge of the facts. Once the facts are fully aired, I expect the outcome of this inquiry will be positive. I will cooperate fully and look forward to a speedy conclusion.”

A private developer and friend of Sansom's, Jay Odom, had sought $6-million from the state for a hurricane-proof building that he would use and turn over to local emergency officials during a storm. He never got funding, but Sansom did about the same time in 2007.

But Sansom, the college and Odom deny there is any relation, even though the building is in the same location.

Grandjuror "Right now, it's a fact gathering (exercise)," Meggs said. He said the 21-member grand jury will return in mid February. (photo: One of the jurors enters the courtroom.)

Sansom and the college deny any relation between the money he secured and the job.

Sansom, 46, has said he is only looking out for his district and that some of the money was part of a statewide plan to stimulate the economy.

He says that the process was transparent and that all lawmakers and the governor signed off on the budget.

"I feel confident, very confident, that in the end I will come out of this clean, innocent," he told reporters in Tallahassee last week.

Previous coverage:
Jan. 18 State attorney general looking into Sansom's secretive trustee meeting
Jan. 11: The Buzz: Sansom says he saw no legal or ethical problem
Jan. 16: Minutes from a March meeting with Sansom, Northwest Florida College appear
Jan. 10: Scarborough's criticism of Sansom is personal, notable
Jan. 8: Grand Jury may investigate House Speaker Sansom
Jan 6: House Speaker Ray Sansom reluctantly resigns a six-figure job.
Jan. 6 editorial: Sansom resigns; questions remain
Dec. 18: House speaker builds record of finding cash for college
Dec. 21: Documents link House speaker, friend and college facility
Dec. 22: House speaker's college job not unique
Dec. 28: When new employer asked, lawmaker delivered
Dec. 30: Sansom hires attorney Richard Coates to handle ethics complaint

Photos: Alex Leary, AP


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


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