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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State official describes 'vague' Sansom project



A former Florida Department of Education official told investigators that the $6 million airport building Ray Sansom got money for was "one of those (projects) that I was told to just leave alone."

But the recently retired official, Ron Fahs, said the project would have had a hard time meeting scrutiny otherwise because it sidestepped normal planning and appropriation steps. Fahs said he was not immediately aware that Jay Odom planned to use part of the building at Destin Airport.

When Fahs did hear about possible planes in the building, he said he thought that was for training students. "It was very vague," he told investigator Jim Anderson of the Leon County State Attorney's Office.

The interview (audio here) was conducted Sept. 15 and was released Friday as part of discovery in the case against Sansom, the former House speaker who has been charged with official misconduct and perjury.

When Fahs inquired, the college gave him a short description about using the building for emergency training and response.

"Is there any mention of a commercial fixed-base operation?" Anderson asked him.

"No there's not," he replied.

Anderson: "Any mention of a lease with a company called Destin Jet or by an owner named Jay Odom?"

Fahs: "I did not see his name or Destin Jet mentioned, no."

Anderson: "Any mention of the storage or maintenance inside of the buildings at the Destin Airport?"

Fahs: "No that explanation was fairly vague. It was reported to me that it would be more on the order of an emergency response training center ..."

The discovery also contains records showing ex-Northwest Florida State College president Bob Richburg sent Sansom an e-mail on April 3, 2007 -- before Sansom got the money -- outlining the alleged scheme and asking that it be kept quiet. That e-mail has been reported and could play a central role in the trial.

State Attorney Willie Meggs said in court recently that he could show Sansom opened the message. But that will remain an open question.  A review by college IT officials shows Sansom did receive the message (see for yourself here) but it does not show whether he opened it.

One way to tell for sure would be to check things on Sansom's side. One problem, though: The House, which is not subject to the same pubic records law as the college, says it does not keep records that old.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:20pm]


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