SHERIFF GOT 41 NEW CARS WHILE IN OFFICE
A Panhandle sheriff indicted for corruption bought himself 41 new cars during 12 years in office. An audit of suspended Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris found he frequently traded official vehicles and spent more than $170,000 in public money buying GMC Envoys, Chevrolet Impalas and such. Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Morris in February after FBI agents arrested him during a Las Vegas gambling trip. He is charged with conspiracy, theft, fraud and money laundering in a scheme to pocket money from fictitious employee bonuses.
Pension on hold for fired leader
The college president who was indicted along with former House Speaker Ray Sansom will not be able to draw a monthly state pension while he awaits the outcome of criminal charges. The Department of Management Services has sent a letter to Bob Richburg, who was president of Northwest Florida State College until being fired last week, that says his benefits will be suspended "and will remain suspended until such time as the criminal charge has been determined by the court." Richburg and Sansom were indicted last month on official misconduct charges for allegedly getting $6 million in taxpayer money for a college building that a grand jury said would benefit a private developer. Richburg is one of the double-dippers, a state employee who "retired" briefly then was rehired to the same job but with a pension. Richburg got a lump sum of $553,228 in 2007 and started collecting a monthly pension of $8,803 in addition to his $228,000 annual salary.
Senate run for Crist predicted
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, head of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee, has joined the multitudes speculating that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will jump into the Senate race. "My understanding is that he plans to do that, but I would have to defer to him," Cornyn said. "All the signals I've been getting is he probably will." Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio joined the race this week. Cornyn said he has talked to both Rubio and Crist, and he does not expect the campaign committee to take sides in a primary. When asked about Crist's statewide popularity, Cornyn said, "I've seen his numbers, and they are pretty impressive. But this is something Florida Republicans are going to have to work out."
Judge receives public reprimand
The Florida Supreme Court has reprimanded a judge for criticizing colleagues and filing a lawsuit as part of his crusade against jail overcrowding. St. Lucie County Judge Clifford Barnes stood impassively before the high court Wednesday to receive his scolding from Chief Justice Peggy Quince. She told Barnes he had undermined public confidence in the judiciary through his public criticism of other judges and officials and by advocating for jail inmates who might appear before him in court. Quince said during the public reprimand that it was not his role to file the lawsuit that he ultimately withdrew.
Times staff, wires