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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Live blogging the Sansom trial -- Day 4

24

March

It's Thursday, Day 4 of the Ray Sansom-Jay Odom trial. Click here for recap of yesterday, which featured Gov. Charlie Crist.

minutes.jpg5 p.m.: Court has adjourned for the day.

4:29 p.m.: Sansom attorney Steve Dobson cross examining Yancey.

4:06 p.m.: A 15-minute break has been called so prosecution can review e-mails defense wants to use.

3:43 p.m.: Cross examination of Yancey begins. Defense attorney Larry Simpson establishing with Yancey that use of PECO dollars requires state rules and laws be followed. Simpson also establishing that contracts (for architects) must be approved by college board of trustees. Same for any lease with a private entity, such as Odom's jet business.

Yancey says he had hoped to lease out space to generate some money to pay for lights, insurance and other operational costs of the building.

3:23 p.m.: Yancey is reading minutes (pictured) from a staff meeting he held that states, "The hangar for Jay's planes would be converted into Emergency Vehicle storage during an emergency."

Yancey also said he had a meeting with Richburg and Odom about trying to get more educational space (cutting into Odom's hangar space) and then read an e-mail in which it was stated that "multiple aircraft" would be stored in the building.

A Feb. 2009 email Yancey read indicates the word "hangar" was replaced by "staging area." Meggs suggests this shows a coverup after the controversy came up.

yancey.jpg2:59 p.m.: The email has not come up. Richburg is questioning Yancey about the planning of the building. Meggs asked if the plan was to lease building to aircraft business. He said, "Yes, to store aircraft in it."

2:42 p.m.: The jury is out. College VP Gary Yancey on stand and defense appeared to be trying to block inclusion of a key piece of evidence -- a April 3, 2007 email that indicates that the deal to lease hangar space to Odom was hatched before Sansom got the $6 million. Richburg says the project should be "held close" until after Sansom's "actions."

1:38 p.m.: On witness stand: Brian Shonk, an official at the college who was in chargeshonk.jpgof getting programming or the airport space. He testified that of the 25,000 square feet, he was initially told he could only use 6,000 SF, which was later bumped to 9,000 SF with the addition of a second floor.

Meggs had him read an e-mail to a higher ranking that demand for certain training courses would be low, at least initially, and that he would be "more comfortable" with them at the main campus in Niceville. Shonk testified that parking was an issue at the airport.

Meggs asked if there came a time when could use the rest of the facility. "Yes, sir." he said, adding it was at the end of 2008. Shonk said at that point he considered "hands-on tactile" training exercises that would involve putting mock houses and storefronts inside the building.

Meggs asked Shonk if he knew why space because available. He said it was because of news media attention. Meggs is hoping that suggests the college scrambled to change plans after Odom's plan to use the building was uncovered.

On cross examination, Shonk said that he had no doubt the college would have used the building. He also said there would have been a large lecture hall for about 100 students and four classrooms and two labs. He was also shown documents from May 2008 about a meeting of various agencies -- fire, sheriff, emergency response -- that expressed interest in the building.

12:03 p.m.: Lunch break called. Trial resumed at 1:30.

11:26 a.m.: Former college VP Jill White on stand. She said she only became involved in the project after the $6 million was appropriated, and that she then had to find a curriculum to fit the building. Meggs showed her an e-mail in which she said she could "legitimately" do certain things in the future.

jillwhite3.jpgWhite indicated mapping and surveying programs (which could take advantage of a big space). She did not select aerospace related training. In another message, White told college officials she doubted they could "sustain" emergency training at the new Destin location as well as on the main campus in Niceville and that Niceville would draw more people

On cross examination, attorney Larry Simpson noted that the aerospace programs she did not selected were not previously offered at the college. Simpson noted that she also said they could do "continuing workforce ed classes in the emergency response/public safety area ..."

11:11 a.m.: College trustee Dale Rice on stand. During a break, defense lawyers tried to block testimony about Ray Sansom being hired at dalerice.jpgthe college, contending it was not relevant. But Judge Lewis allowed it to stand. The prosecution is using it to show the web of relations between Sansom, the money he got for the college and the job he later took.

Rice said he never knew about plans for a hangar or lease to Destin Jet. On cross examination, however, Rice said he was not on a subcommittee that may have looked at specific plans.

jodyhenderson.jpg10:37 a.m.: Former college trustee Jody Henderson is now on stand. Henderson said he had no knowledge that Destin Jet could be involved in the project. But defense attorney Larry Simpson asked him if anyone at the college would have allowed the building of a hangar for Odom. "I wouldn't think so," he replied.

10:18 a.m.: Jerry McDaniel, Charlie Crist's former budget director and now Gov. Rick Scott's chief, has taken the stand. He read to the jury internal budget documents that said the college did not request the project and it was not on any funding list.

He said staff recommended the project be vetoed.

Meggs then had McDaniel read a letter he wrote to Northwest Florida State College saying Gov. Crist wanted the money returned. The jury jerrymcdaniel.jpglearned that the college trustees returned the money.

On cross examination, McDaniel, pictured right, said the governor's office acted after media reports and due to an "escalation of concern" among staff and the governor's chief of staff that the funds may have been used for a different purpose than stated. The defense also pointed out that there were other projects in 2007 not on an approved Department of Education list.

10:04 a.m.: A 10 minute break has been called. Schembera has finished testifying. The prosecution asked him to read the emails and showed them for the jury. The defense countered and asked him to explain his words. As for an e-mail suggesting "programmatic cover," Schembera said, "I was being a little flippant and probably shouldn't have been in writing. I was simply expressing that this provides the educational justification."

schembera.jpgThe morning will begin with testimony of Jeff Schembera, a lobbyist who traded e-mails with Sansom, Odom and college president Bob Richburg. The e-mails discuss removing the word "Destin" from the budget justification and also suggested Sansom could "intervene politically." (more on those e-mails here).

 

 

[Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 7:30pm]

    

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