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Former Florida Speaker Ray Sansom sues state for legal costs

Former House Speaker Ray Sansom is suing the state, saying he should be reimbursed for the costs of defending himself against corruption charges that were eventually dropped.

Sansom is asking for $817,518.73, plus interest, for his defense in the case that ultimately drove him from office.

He faced charges including grand theft and conspiracy in the case, which stemmed from a 2007 appropriation that was supposed to be for an emergency operations center in Sansom's district.

Prosecutor Willie Meggs argued at trial that it was actually a thinly disguised effort to build a taxpayer-funded airplane hangar for Jay Odom, a political contributor to Sansom.

Meggs gave up on the case after Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he didn't believe prosecutors had made progress in their attempt to prove a conspiracy by Sansom and Odom to steal taxpayer money, which Meggs said made it difficult to move forward with the case.

Now, the former speaker is asking the state to foot the bill for hiring Dobson, Davis & Smith, which billed Sansom anywhere from $275 to $400 an hour for the services of five lawyers as well as $75 an hour for work done by paralegals.

Sansom also agreed to pay expenses for the legal team.

Meggs' decision to drop the case ended what was then a four-year saga that toppled Sansom, R-Destin.

Sansom, Odom and former Northwest Florida State College president Bob Richburg agreed to pay restitution for the $310,000 spent on the facility before the college returned the $6 million appropriated for the project.

North Florida primary heats up

The Republican state Senate primary battle in the greater Jacksonville area between former Rep. Aaron Bean and Rep. Mike Weinstein is one of the most closely watched in the state.

A new mailer from Weinstein lashes out at Bean on a host of issues, from government spending to earmarks to taxes and states under the category of experience that while Weinstein has held a variety of public-sector jobs in Jacksonville, Bean is a "putt putt golf operator."

Cheap shot or chip shot?

Bean and his wife do run a miniature golf course overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Fernandina Beach.

"It's true," Bean said. "I haven't been in government for 35 years."

Weinstein's mailer also plays the geography card, claiming that if Bean, who is from Nassau County, wins the seat, "Jacksonville will lose Republican representation in the Senate."

This is much more than a fight for a single Senate seat, however: The race is crucial to Pinellas Sen. Jack Latvala's hopes of becoming Senate president in 2016.

Bean is being backed by the Senate leadership triumverate of Don Gaetz, Andy Gardiner and Joe Negron, while Weinstein would likely be in Latvala's corner.

Cheney, Bushes will skip RNC

Our partners at POLITICO reported on an interview former Vice President Dick Cheney did Monday with ABC's Good Morning America where he said he won't be at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this month.

POLITICO writes: Cheney, who left office with a 13 percent approval rating, also said he would go fishing rather than attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

This comes on top of news that neither former President George H.W. Bush or his son, former President George W. Bush, will attend.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report, which includes contributions from Times staff writer Steve Bousquet.

Former Florida Speaker Ray Sansom sues state for legal costs 07/31/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 9:29pm]
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