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Sansom helped write job description of post he sought

Ray Sansom has been indicted over a $6 million project.

Ray Sansom has been indicted over a $6 million project.

TALLAHASSEE — Former House Speaker Ray Sansom not only accepted a $110,000 job at Northwest Florida State College — he helped write the job description.

In a newly released e-mail, Sansom sent college president Bob Richburg a draft contract for the job, whose duties were to include overseeing curriculum changes brought about by legislation Sansom helped push through the Legislature.

Two days before Gov. Charlie Crist signed that bill into law (at the school's Niceville campus with Sansom at his side), Sansom wrote Richburg to say, "Really enjoyed lunch yesterday. Attached is the contract we discussed."

The contract proposed a two-year position as "vice president of external affairs," a role that in 2010, when Sansom was term-limited out of office, would evolve into "a full-time employee with all benefits as a normal full-time employee of the college."

One of Sansom's job duties: To oversee Northwest Florida State College's transition into a newly created upper tier of community colleges that expands the ability of nine such schools to offer more four-year degrees.

The details have not been previously known because the Panhandle college did not release all the documents related to Sansom's hiring, although the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau had requested all those documents in November. Sansom accepted the college job on the same day he was sworn in as House speaker.

The documents were provided to investigators looking at Sansom's ties to the college, including the $35 million in additional or accelerated funding he funneled to the school in the two years he controlled the House budget.

Sansom has been indicted by a grand jury, and last week a House investigator found probable cause he violated House rules. Sansom now will face the judgement of a special House panel that will re-investigate the charges and determine if the chamber should punish him. Among the options would be to remove him from office.

It was not just money Sansom, R-Destin, was pursuing for the school. He also worked behind the scenes with Richburg on the state college legislation.

Sansom and Richburg apparently kept their job discussions secret. College employees did not start hearing about the job until October, according to a report from the House investigator, Steve Kahn.

The draft from June 2008 laid out numerous responsibilities, including planning and hosting "a minimum of four major conferences"; working on an emergency operations center being built on the Niceville campus; making recommendations on the transition to the state college system; and "work directly with the college president on the effectiveness of the college's operation in media communications."

Some of those same duties were part of the job Sansom took on Nov. 18, 2008, though his title was vice president for development and planning. Richburg said the position came available because another vice president left the school.

The job was never advertised and wasn't offered to anyone but Sansom.

At the time, Richburg called Sansom a "very effective legislator" who brought the college millions in funding, but he denied the job was a payback for Sansom's support.

"His appointment to this college had nothing to do with securing these projects," Richburg told the Times/Herald. "These projects were in the pipeline."

A Northwest Florida State College spokeswoman, Sylvia Bryan, did not return messages Monday seeking more information on the origins of Sansom's job.

Richburg has been fired, in part over the controversy surrounding Sansom and a $6 million project at Destin Airport that a grand jury concluded was to benefit Sansom's friend Jay Odom. Richburg and Odom also were indicted by the grand jury for their role in the alleged airport scheme.

It turns out Sansom was a job candidate at the college many years earlier. In 1989, he interviewed for a position advertised as an assistant to president Richburg. Sansom was one of 29 applicants and made a four-man short list. The job went to Bolley "Bo" Johnson, a Democratic state representative from Milton.

Johnson faced scrutiny for steering money to the school after he was hired, but he quit the college job just before he became House speaker in 1992. In 1999, he was convicted of tax evasion for failing to report more than $500,000 in income over several years, and went to prison.

Sansom helped write job description of post he sought 06/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 6:00pm]
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