State Rep. Ray Sansom's attempt to have a fellow lawmaker removed from a panel investigating his ties to a state college has failed, and Sansom's defense was handed two other setbacks late Tuesday.
Sansom argued Monday that Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, had a conflict of interest because he works for the same law firm as the lawyer representing witnesses for Northwest Florida State College.
Sansom, R-Destin, also said Gibbons was biased because he told a reporter that Sansom could be trying to delay the tribunal.
But Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the chairman of the five-member committee, said Tuesday night that Gibbons can stay because the review is not like a judicial setting, but is a review by Sansom's colleagues. He added that Gibbons' statements did not rise to the extreme and stressed that any disciplinary action would be voted on by the 120-member House.
As head of the House budget, Sansom steered $35 million in extra or accelerated money to the college, including $6 million for an airport building that a developer and friend at one point was eyeing for his corporate jet business. Sansom later took a $110,000 job at the college on the same day he was sworn in as speaker of the House.
The tribunal is to begin Monday, and Sansom will be limited by a decision Galvano made Tuesday granting a motion by the House's special prosecutor, Melanie Hines.
• First, the motives of the Tampa-area woman who filed the complaint against Sansom will not be considered relevant. Sansom presumably would have argued that she did not have firsthand knowledge of his alleged misconduct, relying instead on newspapers. Galvano said the House is basing its review on the work of an independent investigator who found probable cause Sansom violated House rules.
• Second, Sansom will be limited in using other lawmakers as part of his defense. He may have been planning to show that other lawmakers have taken jobs at colleges or rewarded pet projects.