DECEMBER 30, 2008
The Speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives is being investigated by the state’s ethics commission for taking a high-paying job at a public college after he helped the school get millions of dollars in state funding.
Republican Ray Sansom will go before the Florida Commission on Ethics in late January to answer to a serious complaint filed earlier this month. It says that the Republican Speaker was rewarded with a lucrative $110,000-a-year job at Northwest Florida State College after helping the school get millions in public funding.
The complaint cites a Florida statute that says no public officer shall “corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position to secure a special privilege, benefit of exemption for himself, herself or others.” If the commission determines there was a violation, it may implement a fine or removal from office.
Sansom is evidently taking the charges seriously because he hired the state’s best ethics lawyer, Richard Coates, to defend him at next month’s hearing. The well-known Tallahassee attorney represented Florida’s former chief financial officer in a conflict of interest scandal a few years ago.
The Speaker’s case will undoubtedly be helped by a convenient lack of evidence. Because lawmakers have fewer restrictions on preserving records, Sansom and his staff regularly delete electronic mail about his business dealings every month. This routine file cleansing conveniently includes correspondence regarding the college deal.
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