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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio's ties to the 'Taj Mahal' courthouse scandal

31

August

Courthouse Lucy Morgan's story today on the appeals court controversy notes that state Sen. Charlie Dean had rejected a request by the district's chief judge, Paul Hawkes, and fellow Judge Brad Thomas ( both former legislative staffers) to fund the construction of a new 1st District Court of Appeal as court budgets were being cut:

Dean said Hawkes and Thomas indicated they would go around him to get the funding they needed.

"He (Hawkes) just looked at me and grinned and said, 'I got friends,' '' Dean said.

Dean said the two judges had help from Richard Corcoran, then chief of staff for House Speaker Marco Rubio, and from Hawkes' son Jeremiah, who was general counsel for Rubio.

In final budget negotiations that year, Dean said the decision about money for the courthouse was bumped up to then-Appropriations Chairman Ray Sansom and Rubio. The final budget included $7.9 million to begin planning and construction.

"The next thing I knew, they were going to build a building,'' Dean said. He said he didn't know about the last-minute bond issue amendment until he read about it this month in the St. Petersburg Times.

Corcoran, now a Republican nominee for the House from Pasco County, has denied helping Hawkes and Thomas get the project funded. Rubio said the project was a Senate priority that was not controversial at the time, and he said it never would have passed had lawmakers known how the money would be spent.

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:25am]

    

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