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Sansom draws ethics complaint

A Pinellas County man has filed a state ethics complaint against House Speaker Ray Sansom, asserting he used his position to secure a high-paying job at his local college after steering millions to the school.

David A. Plyer, a Democrat from Clearwater, filed the complaint with the Commission on Ethics this month and notified the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau on Sunday afternoon.

He cites a Florida Statute, Chapter 112.313 (6), that says no public officer shall "corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position … to secure a special privilege, benefit of exemption for himself, herself or others."

"The Sansom issue is an outrage," Plyer wrote in an e-mail. "A person applies for the job of legislator. We, the people, hire him and pay him. His job: To protect our rights and serve the best interests of all of us. In return, we expect accountability. If we question a decision, we expect an answer. It appears that Sansom used his current position and public money to land a second job. You don't look for another job on company time with company funds! Ray, what were you thinking? We deserve answers."

Sansom, R-Destin, took the $110,000 a year job at Northwest Florida State College on the same November day he was sworn in as House speaker. He disputes it was a reward for helping the school secure tens of millions in the past few years and push through legislation that allowed it to offer expanded bachelor's degrees.

In his complaint, Plyer, 62, cited a Times/Herald story from Nov. 28 that detailed how Sansom added $24.5-million to a college project that had been slated to get $1-million in the current budget. The money is for a student services building that will also house a "leadership institute" for which Sansom also secured funding.

Sansom has said he is only doing what any other lawmaker does in looking after his district. He has stressed that the education construction money comes from a fund that cannot go to other areas of the budget.

Sansom could not be immediately reached Sunday night.

Plyer, a retired electrical engineer and a member of the Pinellas County Juvenile Justice Council, said he was spurred by a feeling that elected officials of any stripe should be held to a high standard.

"The more you become aware of this stuff, the more you see it everywhere," he said in an interview.

If the Ethics Commission finds a violation has occurred, it can recommend a fine or removal from office.

Alex Leary can be reached at aleary@sptimes.come or (850) 224-7263.

Sansom draws ethics complaint 12/28/08 [Last modified: Saturday, January 3, 2009 9:21am]
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