House panel hands two defeats to Sansom
A House committee investigating Rep. Ray Sansom's conduct voted 5-0 Tuesday to deny the former House speaker's motion to dismiss charges that he violated the rules of the House. The panel also voted to deny Sansom's request for a delay and will proceed with a full hearing the week of Feb. 22.
With Sansom watching from a front-row seat in the audience, the Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct followed the advice of its counsel, Melanie Hines, that Sansom has been given adequate time to hire a new lawyer and that a hearing should move forward.
The panel's chairman, Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, agreed. "We have been very patient. We have proceeded with extreme caution and afforded opportunity to have counsel. We've done that on a few occasions now," Galvano said. "But we do have an obligation to the citizens of Florida to conduct our business as well."
The issue of whether the Destin Republican's budget dealings improperly benefited a local college and a developer and damaged the integrity of the House will be tried the last week before the March 2 start of the regular legislative session. The panel approved a list of nine people who will be subpoenaed to testify at the hearing, including Sansom's co-defendants, Jay Odom and Bob Richburg, and former Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, who was Sansom's budget-writing counterpart in 2007.
Hines noted that the panel has twice granted delays at Sansom's request, the most recent one to give him time to find a new lawyer after Richard Coates withdrew his representation, citing a conflict that involves not Sansom but other potential witnesses in the case. But the committee showed its desire to move forward as Rep. Faye Culp, R-Tampa, was first to urge that the motion to dismiss be denied.
"I believe that we should move forward," Culp said.
Sansom's new attorney is Gloria Fletcher of Gainesville, who joined the case only last week and is reviewing "four bankers' boxes" of documents that total more than 7,000 pages.