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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House Democrats call for 'Taj Mahal' investigation



House Democrats Thursday called for an investigation of the process used to provide funding for the “Taj Mahal,’’ the $50-million courthouse built by the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Democratic Leader Ron Saunders of Key West, urged House Appropriations Chair Denise Grimsley to order an investigation to help lawmakers keep it from happening again.

“I am concerned that as we enter a legislative session where budget cuts will be considered that could cause great harm to needy infants and senior citizens, it remains unclear how this lavish facility got approved for funding,” Saunders said in a letter to Grimsley.

Saunders asked for the investigation after learning that Judge Paul M. Hawkes was resigning from the court rather than face trial before the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Hawkes was accused of misconduct for his aggressive lobbying to gain approval of a bond issue that was hidden away in a transportation bill on the last day of the 2007 legislative session.

Many legislators said later they were unaware that the measure was tucked into another bill.

-- Lucy Morgan

[Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2011 2:18pm]


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