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Grand jury to explore House Speaker Sansom's hiring at college

TALLAHASSEE — A grand jury decided Monday to look into allegations that House Speaker Ray Sansom abused his position by taking a six-figure job at his hometown college.

"From this point on, we'll be calling witnesses," State Attorney Willie Meggs said at the Leon County Courthouse. "I don't know what we're going to find until we look. We will get the people who have this information and present it to the grand jury."

Sansom, R-Destin, took the unadvertised $110,000 a year job at Northwest Florida State College on the same day that he became speaker of the House two months ago.

The St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau then reported that over the past two years, the college got about $35-million in extra or accelerated construction funding, including $6-million for an airport building once sought by a prominent developer and Republican donor, Jay Odom.

Sansom and the college deny any relation between the money he secured and the job.

After the grand jury's decision, Sansom released this statement: "I have acted honestly in all matters, including in my work as a state legislator. The complaints are based on news articles, not personal knowledge of the facts. Once the facts are fully aired, I expect the outcome of this inquiry will be positive. I will cooperate fully and look forward to a speedy conclusion."

Sansom, 46, has said he is only looking out for his district and that some of the money was part of a statewide plan to stimulate the economy.

He says that the process was transparent and that all lawmakers and the governor signed off on the budget.

"I feel confident, very confident, that in the end I will come out of this clean, innocent," he told reporters in Tallahassee last week.

The grand jury proceeding began at 9:30 a.m., when 50 potential jurors were led into Courtroom 3C.

It was a diverse group: a woman carrying a Beatles book bag; a man on crutches; a young man in camouflage pants; young, old, black and white. A half hour later, a group of the citizens was let go.

The grand jury has 21 members.

Grand jury to explore House Speaker Sansom's hiring at college 01/26/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 12:30pm]
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