Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Sam Rashid resigns from Hillsborough airport board — but doesn't apologize

TAMPA — Republican activist Sam Rashid resigned from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Friday.

"Today, I tender my resignation and wish you and your next appointee continued success," Rashid wrote to Gov. Rick Scott.

But Rashid did not apologize for the misogynistic Facebook slur that led to his resignation: He called public relations consultant Beth Leytham a "tax-payer subsidized slut" on Sept. 2.

Rashid said he quit because he believed media coverage of his comments distracted from what he considers the real issue: allegations of public influence in steering government contracts.

"Really, you guys will simply not let the past rest," he said. "Every time there's an article or statement or my name comes up, it's always going to refer back to this ridiculous situation.

"You've got a person that has literally stolen money from the taxpayers, and yet all we hear about is Rashid's slur against Leytham."

Rashid said he meant "slut" as a political slur — not a sexual slur.

Leytham said it was about time.

"It's absolutely welcome news for me," she said. "But I also think it's a victory for all the women in our community that the governor finally sent a message that that kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated."

Rashid is one of Hillsborough County's most influential Republicans. He made the comments about Leytham — herself an influential player in Tampa politics — in an attack on the county's transportation plan, Go Hillsborough.

Rashid, a critic of Go Hillsborough, said on Facebook that Leytham made "several million dollars" as an "unregistered lobbyist by having an intimately close relationship with three of our local elected officials."

His comments helped fuel criticism of Go Hillsborough. Critics have charged that a $1.35 million contract was awarded to consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff because it hired Leytham to help with public outreach.

Go Hillsborough started bleeding political support from there. County Administrator Mike Merrill recently asked the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to investigate Go Hillsborough, in the hopes that clearing any legal or ethical issues will restore public confidence in the initiative.

Scott appointed Rashid to the Aviation Authority in June 2014.

This wasn't the first time Facebook had gotten Rashid in trouble, either. In May, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio appointed Rashid to a committee that advises Rubio and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on judicial appointees.

Rashid resigned after posting an item on Facebook saying some local judges were "dumbasses."

Rashid acknowledged that his strong political opinions — often expressed in strong language on Facebook — make it difficult for him to serve in public office.

"Now that I'm no longer held to a higher moral standard than anybody else, maybe I can get back to my normal mode of expression," he said. "I just decided it's not worth it for me.

"I'm tired of being held to a G-rated standard that I probably can't maintain."

Times staff writer Sue Carlton contributed to this report.

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