Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

FBI Now Looking Into Former House Speaker

Ray Sansom, the Republican Speaker of the Florida House who stepped aside earlier this year after being indicted on felony charges by a Tallahassee Grand Jury, now faces the prospects of an FBI investigation.  According to the St. Petersburg Times, the FBI has begun inquiring about the case and is beginning to collect documents.

The case involves an appropriation that Sansom singularly directed to benefit Jay Odom, a panhandle-area developer, and Northwest Florida State College.  Odom is a big-time contributor to the Republican Party of Florida, donating more than $1 million to the party.  He, Sansom and Bob Richburg, the former president of Northwest Florida State College, all currently face state charges.

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The Rise and Fall of Ray Sansom and his Cronies

Today, the trustees of the Northwest Florida State College voted to return the $6 million Panhandle legislator Ray Sansom obtained for them secretly (less $300,000 the college already spent, that is).  They also voted to fire Bob Richburg, the college president and Sansom’s close buddy.   No punishment so far for Jay Odom who would have benfitted from the college’s airplane hangar.

Read the rest of the story here.

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Grand Jury: Keep on investigating Ray Sansom

A grand jury in Tallahassee this afternoon told investigators to keep looking into Rep. Ray Sansom and the job he took at Northwest Florida State College after securing millions in state construction money for the school.

“We don’t know where it will go, but it’s going to keep going,” State Attorney Willie Meggs said.

An assistant state attorney gave the jury an update on the Sansom case, apparently focusing today on possible Sunshine Law violations concerning a meeting between the college trustees, president Bob Richburg and Sansom last March.  [St. Pete Times]

In related news,

Jay Odom has resigned from the board of directors for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer, citing “time constraints” with his family.

Odom, 52, sent a letter to the board and Senate President Jeff Atwater announcing his resignation. Odom was last appointed to Citizens by then-Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

The news comes on the same day the Republican Party of Florida said it is no longer contracting jet services from Odom.

Odom is considered to be a subject in the grand jury investigation into Rep. Ray Sansom’s dealings with Northwest Florida State College. [St. Pete Times]

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Sansom turns speaker duties over to Cretul

The good news:   Ray Sansom, beseiged by stinging criticism (not from Florida’s Republican legislators, though) and criminal and ethics investigations stepped down temporarily from his post as Speaker of the House for the Florida Legislature today – at least until the investigations are concluded.  The Speaker Pro Tem, Larry Cretul, will be assuming Sansom’s duties as Speaker of the House.

The bad news:  Sansom can resume his position as Speaker of the House at any time.

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Sansom’s jet hangar

Well, a few rocks have been turned over on Sansom’s jet hangar and look what’s been found. 

Although Destin Jet is about to open and Jay Odom has known for more than a year that a college building will go up instead of his maintenance facility, he has yet to tell county officials how he’ll meet their FAA-recommended mandate to offer repair service. [St. Pete Times]

Hmmm….maybe Odom and Sansom did intend for him to use that facility for his jets after all.

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Sansom grand jury convenes today

A grand jury today will consider Ray Bellamy’s ethics complaint against Ray Sansom.  Bellamy filed his with the North Florida state attorney, Willie Meggs, after a series of newspaper reports that the 46-year-old politician might have used his power to secure a six-figure job and approve state funding for a political benefactor’s project.

“Somebody has got to stop this,” Bellamy said, “or it’s going to become the standard for future House speakers and legislators.”

Since he was sworn in as House speaker on Nov. 18, Sansom has been the target of two ethics complaints – in addition to the grand jury inquiry – that question whether he was offered a $110,000-per-year job at Northwest Florida State College as payback for securing the school – about the size of Indian River State College – tens of millions of dollars in construction projects.

Also at question is Sansom’s role in one project in particular: $6 million from the state to build Northwest Florida State an emergency training facility 16 miles from its Niceville campus on land leased by Destin Jet.

The company’s owner, Jay Odom, who has contributed more than $100,000 to Sansom’s political committees, had hoped the training facility would double as a jet hangar. News of the hangar was first reported by the St. Petersburg Times.

Sansom also is facing questions from Attorney General Bill McCollum, a fellow Republican whose office confirmed last week it is looking into whether Sansom and Northwest Florida State President James “Bob” Richburg tried to skirt state open-meeting laws to strategize about legislation that would transform the school from a community college to a state college. [Palm Beach Post]

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St. Pete Times busts Sansom – again

It seems that our lovely Speaker of the House, Ray “Criminole” Sansom, decided he needed to defend himself and so wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News today.  Unfortunately, he neglected to mention a few salient facts in his defense of himself.  Not to worry though, the St. Pete Times (which originally broke this whole story) has busted him again


“It’s true that earlier this year I supported the college’s successful efforts to obtain accelerated funding for construction projects. The money for those projects came from a fund that, by law, can be used only for school construction funding. In other words, there was no choice to be made between the college’s projects and, for example, K-12 classrooms, law enforcement or health care for the poor.”

St. Pete Times:

Sansom uses the word “accelerated” but fails to explain that the Department of Education had recommended $1-million for the project and that he increased it to $25.5-million — the single largest award for a college in 2008.

He also fails to note that $7.5-million of the $25.5-million was not included in the DOE recommendations — a fact illustrated in this memo obtained by the Times/Herald.

The $7.5 million is going to build a “leadership institute” at the college.

Sansom does not say that he inserted $750,000 in start-up money for the leadership institute, a maneuver that irritated then-Speaker Marco Rubio because he was not aware it had been done until too late. Sansom was the budget chairman for the 2007 and 2008 sessions — at which time the small college in Niceville got about $35-million in new or accelerated funding.

What’s more, Sansom does not address the $6-million he inserted into the budget in 2007 for a project at Destin Airport that is remarkably similar to a $6-million airport hangar once sought by his friend Jay Odom.

That, too, was not on the DOE list for public education capital outlay funding, state officials have confirmed for the Times/Herald.

As Scott Maxwell said in his column in the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week:

You quit the wrong job, Mr. Speaker.  

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Questions still abound over Sansom jet hangar deal

While several different newspapers (including the TU) have published editorials praising the House Speaker for resigning his cushy school job, numerous questions still abound about the jet hangar deal for his buddy, Jay Odom. You know, the jet hangar that Sansom apparently is attempting to now sell off as a totally separate emergency management building at his college.  But the St. Pete Times isn’t going to let Sansom off that easy. Their editorial board has called for a criminal investigation in the matter. 

According to a St. Pete Times article today:

A year and a half after slipping $6-million into the state budget for an emergency facility at his hometown airport, House Speaker Ray Sansom led a hastily arranged meeting with local officials to explain how they might use it.

The meeting, held Dec. 10, came four days after the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau reported that the airport building was originally proposed by a friend of Sansom’s, Jay Odom, a developer who wanted to park his jets in a taxpayer-funded hangar.

Sansom had secured state funding through an account designated for capital projects at colleges, and he called the meeting in his new role as vice president of Northwest Florida State College, which will own the facility and use it to teach emergency response classes.

But e-mails show that Sansom’s Tallahassee staff helped coordinate the gathering.

“It’s CYA time,” said former Destin Mayor Ken Beaird. “They got caught and now they’re trying to justify … an aircraft hangar.”

Let’s be honest.  At the end of Sansom’s current term in two years, we all know where he will likely be – in the same cushy Northwest Florida State College job that he took on the same day that he was sworn in as House Speaker….with his friend Odom’s jet parked in the hangar.

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