For it's one, two, three Sansom scandals

To keep track, let's divide the "things to investigate" list about House Speaker Ray Sansom into three categories:

The Job.

The Meeting.

The Building.

The first topic has gotten the most attention. The second is the most comical. Yet the third might end up being the worst.

The Job. On the day Sansom became House speaker in November, he was hired for a $110,000-a-year job at Northwest Florida State College.

The "part-time" job was not advertised. The parties denied it had anything to do with Sansom shoveling $35-million of public money toward the school in his previous role as the House's budget writer.

Sansom has resigned his school job effective Saturday. But who wants to bet against him being rehired later?

Can this deal be prosecuted? Florida law is pretty loose. It is not enough to say that X did Y and got paid Z. To prove corrupt intent, you practically have to have a signed contract titled, "Agreement To Pay Off A Guy."

As for complaints filed with the state Commission on "Ethics" (my sarcastic quotes), they are just as likely to result in yet another weak-sister ruling that No Law Was Violated.

The Meeting. Things descended into low-grade farce when the school's trustees met in March in Tallahassee, 150 miles away from their Niceville campus. The far-off meeting was advertised back home only a week in advance.

"It's probably the only way we can do it in privacy," school president Bob Richburg wrote in an e-mail to Sansom.

Ten months later, when questions started flying about the meeting, Richburg produced a reconstructed "record" of the event.

I have to admit, this notion of a reconstructed "record" is a useful one. I'll have to try it on my boss or somebody.

SHE: Did you really goof off at the racetrack all day?

ME: (typing hastily) Wait! I'll show you the minutes!

The Building. If there were a crime called "sticking stuff into the budget to help your buddies," heck, the whole Legislature would be in jail.

But the $6-million that Sansom got for a "training facility" at Destin Airport for the school to train emergency workers goes beyond that. Abuse of the state budget seems like a good place for investigators to start.

The "training facility" turns out to be the spittin' image of an aircraft hangar that was desired by a friend of Richburg's and Sansom's who owns a company called Destin Jet.

To hear everybody tell it, the fact that this "training facility" is exactly what the jet-airplane guy wanted, on exactly the spot where he wanted it, is just a coincidence.

The jet guy's wishes weren't "consciously on my mind," the speaker explained last week.

Good grief! Some people accidentally lose their keys; the House speaker accidentally builds aircraft hangars.

With the heat on now, the jet guy isn't using the building. But the deal says when the school stops using the place, he has "first priority" to acquire the improvements.

One, two, three little topics for investigators.

Sansom predicts he will be found "clean, innocent." And, what the heck, maybe he will be. This is Florida.

Still, I wonder how the members of the House — who made Sansom speaker by acclamation, whose consent keeps him in the post today, and who gave him a standing ovation the other day — plan to defend their judgment.

For it's one, two, three Sansom scandals 01/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 12:31pm]

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