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State attorney general looking into Sansom's secretive trustee meeting

TALLAHASSEE — The state attorney general Friday opened an inquiry into records made for a secretive meeting House Speaker Ray Sansom helped arrange of his hometown college's board of trustees.

"We're looking to see if there is any indication that public records laws were met or not met," said Sandi Copes, spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican.

This week, Northwest Florida State College president Bob Richburg sent a document — he calls it a "record," not minutes — to state Sen. Don Gaetz summarizing what took place when the school's board of trustees held a meeting last March.

Richburg sent the record after a newspaper in Sansom's hometown published an editorial urging Gaetz to demand an investigation into whether the meeting violated the state Sunshine Law.

Richburg created his notes Jan. 5 — about 10 months after the meeting happened — according to college spokeswoman Sylvia Bryan. She declined to say why he made the record.

As a public school, a meeting of the trustees must be open to the public, which requires advertising the time and place. State law also requires that minutes of a meeting "shall be promptly recorded, and such records shall be open to public inspection."

The trustee meeting has become central in a controversy that has enveloped Sansom, who took a high-paying part-time job at the college after having steered millions of dollars of state construction money to the school. He has since resigned the $110,000 a year position.

In an e-mail exchange obtained by the Times/Herald through public records, Sansom and Richburg plotted to hold the trustee meeting in Tallahassee while satisfying public notice requirements with publicity in Okaloosa County, 150 miles away. "It's probably the only way we can do it in privacy," Richburg said.

Before sending the notes to Gaetz, the school had said it had no records of the meeting.

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

State attorney general looking into Sansom's secretive trustee meeting 01/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 9:23pm]

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