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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

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.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , ,

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]

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , , ,

Ray “I’m clean” Sansom now hires criminal attorney

Despite his protestations about being clean, Ray Sansom has hired one of the best known criminal defense lawyers in Tallahassee and elsewhere – Peter Antonacci.  Antonacci will be defending Mr. Clean in possible state and federal investigations into the dealings of the Sansom, Bob Richburg and the trustees of NW Florida State College. 

Antonacci once worked for Meggs [the local State Attorney conducting the state investigation into Sansom], handling public corruption prosecutions. In recent years, he has become the go-to guy for Republicans in trouble.

In 2002, then-Gov. Jeb Bush called on Antonacci to represent his daughter, Noelle, on charges that she had forged a prescription for Xanax.

Antonacci is currently a senior lawyer in the Tallahassee office of Gray-Robinson, one of Florida’s best-known law firms. Antonacci, like Coates, was a lobbyist before the Florida Legislature in 2008. [St. Pete Times]

If you recall, Sansom has already hired Richard Coates (mentioned in the quote above) to represent him on the ethics complaint that has been lodged against him.  Btw, the Ethics Commission found the ethics complaint against Sansom legally sufficient on Friday.  Now a preliminary investigation into the ethics charges will occur.

Sansom has repeatedly issued blanket denials of any wrongdoing, but the St. Pete Times has called him out again in an editorial today saying the only thing convincing about Sansom’s denials is the underscoring of the need for criminal investigations into the matter. 

So if Sansom is Mr. Clean, I can’t help but wonder this:  Why does he need to hire two big gun attorneys to represent him?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

Sansom definitely not out of the woods

Ray Sansom’s shenanigans are being turned over by North Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs for a Leon County grand jury investigation.  Once the grand jury is empaneled on Jan. 26, Meggs will give the complaints to jurors, leave the room and let them decide whether it should be investigated.  If jurors vote to investigate, Meggs said they would develop a plan for the investigation. 

Read more about it here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , ,

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