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A Times Editorial

Questions for the Speaker

Finally, someone in Tallahassee is raising questions about whether House Speaker Ray Sansom should be investigated for abusing his public office. Not Gov. Charlie Crist. Not Attorney General Bill McCollum. Not other Republicans in the Legislature. To find this brave soul requires crossing Monroe Street from the state Capitol to the Leon County Courthouse.

State Attorney Willie Meggs will ask a grand jury this month whether it wants to investigate Sansom. It's about time someone did — someone with the power to subpoena records and take sworn testimony. The Destin Republican's belated resignation from his $110,000-a-year job at Northwest Florida State College does not put an end to serious questions about his funneling of millions of dollars to the college as the House's top budget expert. Sansom and college president Bob Richburg have not been very forthcoming, and a grand jury could shed light on a few questions. Among them:

• Was the unadvertised administrative job that the college gave Sansom on the same day he became speaker a payoff for the millions in construction dollars he steered to the college?

• If Sansom continued to follow through on the college's multiyear plan to so baldly cash in on his legislative leadership, was he to be rewarded with the college presidency when Richburg retires?

• How did it come to pass that Sansom put $6-million in school construction money into the state budget for a Destin Airport building and hangar that would be owned by the college and virtually identical to one once sought by a friend and political contributor?

Floridians are demanding more from their elected leaders than those leaders are demanding from themselves. The complaints about Sansom that Meggs will take to the grand jury are from ordinary citizens. But after Sansom announced this week he will give up his college job, his colleagues in the Florida House gave him a standing ovation. It was a shameful display of arrogance, and it illustrates why getting some answers requires crossing the street from the Capitol to the courthouse.

Questions for the Speaker 01/08/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 4:39pm]
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