Sansom's future in Fla. Legislature to be decided


Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 1:27 a.m.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Ray Sansom's future in the Florida Legislature will be determined whether the indicted former House speaker takes part or not.

The House Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct postponed a hearing Thursday after learning Sansom did not have legal counsel. Although lawmakers are in town for committee week, Sansom decided against appearing alone.

They now plan to meet Jan. 22 on a motion to dismiss the ethics complaint. If they don't dismiss the complaint, Sansom could face punishment ranging from censure to expulsion from the House.

Sansom, who was originally indicted last year on official misconduct and perjury charges, faces new charges in the legal system of grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft.

The House attorney, former statewide prosecutor Melanie Hines, reported that she was ready to outline the case against Sansom. Since the former speaker has said he plans to not answer any questions to not incriminate himself, Hines has asked to use grand jury testimony at the committee hearing.

She has previously noted that the ethics complaint would become moot if the House doesn't act before April 30, the final day of the 2010 regular legislative session. Sansom's term expires in November.

"I intend to move forward," committee chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said, adding he would send a letter to Sansom outlining his options about attending the meeting. "I don't want to just leave it open ended."

The ethics case and criminal charges stem from millions of dollars the former speaker steered to Northwest Florida State College for special projects while serving as the House's budget chairman, including $6 million to build an airplane hangar allegedly intended for use by a friend of political supporter of the Destin lawmaker. The school gave Sansom a $110,000-a-year job on the same day he became speaker.

Sansom subsequently resigned the college job and stepped down as speaker and the school canceled the hangar project and fired its president, who was also indicted by the grand jury.

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