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Daniel Ruth

Legislators' sit-down on courthouse inquiry is sure to bring fallout

Within Republican circles, Mike Fasano already was regarded as a cross between the bumptious brother-in-law from hell who burps at the dinner table and the puckered Cotton Mather. • The New Port Richey state senator has ruffled more feathers than a flock of mating whooping cranes with his investigation into the over-the-top $48 million 1st District Court of Appeal courthouse.

Fasano chairs the Florida Senate's Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations, which earlier this month held a hearing on the new courthouse's extravagances that include lush mahogany paneling, chi-chi private bathrooms for the judges to anoint themselves with precious oils, flat-screen televisions, tony artworks and even posh special rooms just to put their robes on.

During the hearing Fasano hauled two of the court's judges, Paul Hawkes and Brad Thomas, before the panel, where both jurists indulged in a bit of "Hummana, hummana, hummana" mea culpas as they claimed to be real sorry about their roles in building themselves Tallahassee's Trump Tower of Torts.

Really, they felt just terrible about being dragooned before the royally peeved Fasano to explain why they had so blithely blown through millions to enhance their self-importance.

The Mike Fasano Yosemite Sam Tour was promising to become one of the capital's hottest tickets until, as the chairman claimed, he was ordered to present himself to Senate President Mike Haridopolos for a little chit-chat.

What happened during the meeting isn't precisely clear, apparently not even between the two men. It's possible Haridopolos transacted the entire session with Fasano in Greek, while the chairman responded in Italian.

Misunderstandings abound.

Fasano insists Haridopolos told him to lay off the courthouse debacle and leave those nice men, Hawkes and Thomas, alone to luxuriate in their sedan chairs.

It probably doesn't look good to have a big shot Senate president attempting to interfere with a committee investigation into how $48 million in public money was spent to buy lavish digs for a bunch of politically juiced judges.

If Haridopolos thought he could browbeat Fasano into laying off on an issue that has brought him more positive headlines than a Girl Scout cookie drive, well then the Senate president has to be dumber than a sack of carp.

Sensitive to allegations he might be trying to muzzle Fasano, Haridopolos quickly unleashed a flurry of official tut-tuts, harrumphs and for good measure a woeful sigh or two, insisting that any hint he was meddling in the chairman's investigation into the Monticello of Mandamus couldn't be further from the truth.

The Senate president explained he was under the impression Fasano, who can probably look forward to his next pivotal legislative assignment as the chairman of the Select Committee on Buggy Whips, Chamber Pots and Slide Rules, had completed his work on the investigation into the Parthenon of Proffers. Haridopolos said the panel might want to move onto something that doesn't involve the Legislature being held up as an ATM for a junket of judges.

But now that Fasano had gone public with accusations Haridopolos had endeavored to bury the probe into the Brigadoon of the Bar, the Senate president soon announced the chairman was free to run like the wind in pursuing his crusade.

Still, you have to wonder how did this kerfuffle between Haridopolos and the soon-to-be chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Roadkill, Leprosy and Boils ever happen in the first place?

Had Haridopolos asked Fasano to stop by so he could throw an arm over and shoulder and exclaim: "Mike, my good chap, I just wanted to tell you what a bully job you're doing on this Xanadu of Depositions thing. Keep up the good work," it's highly doubtful the chairman would have come away from the meeting thinking he had just been told to shut up.

Obviously Haridopolos did or said something to convey to the chairman this Mount Vernon of Voir Dire scandal had gone far enough. Maybe it was the Senate president's coyly caressing a pair of brass knuckles. Maybe it was the life-size poster of Luca Brasi in the corner. Maybe it was the half-completed paperwork designating Fasano's appointment to head the Senate Select Committee on Darkness, that somehow raised the possibility of a political career in decline.

In any event a refreshed and newly invigorated Fasano is eager to move on with his unimpeded investigation into the Windsor Castle of Caveat Emptor.

The next committee hearing is scheduled to be held soon — in Yemen.

Legislators' sit-down on courthouse inquiry is sure to bring fallout 01/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 6:23pm]
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