Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Ray Sansom Scandals

Ray Sansom faces two ethics complaints from David Plyer and Susan Smith. The State Commission on Ethics ruled Plyers' complaint was "legally sufficient." Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs will have a grand jury hear the ethics complaints.

Democrats quickly abandoned William Jefferson and Rod Blagojevich. The GOP operates differently. Sansom's position as Florida House Speaker caused Republicans to circle the wagons. Gov. Charlie Crist blew off a question to investigate Sansom. Attorney General Bill McCollum told a Panhandle resident he did not have the jurisdiction to investigate. After the St. Petersburg Times reported McCollum's email, the Attorney General suddenly put his investigative powers into action.

Columnist Howard Troxler breaks down the Sanson scandals.

To keep track, let's divide the "things to investigate" list about House Speaker Ray Sansom into three categories:

The Job.

The Meeting.

The Building.

I would add the possible violation of Florida's Sunshine laws.

Q. Does the Sunshine Law apply to the Legislature?
A. Florida's Constitution provides that meetings of the Legislature be open and noticed except those specifically exempted by the Legislature or specifically closed by the Constitution. Each house is responsible through its rules of procedures for interpreting, implementing and enforcing these provisions. Information on the rules governing openness in the Legislature can be obtained from the respective houses.

Q. Does the Sunshine Law applies to members-elect?
A. Members-elect of public boards or commissions are covered by the Sunshine law immediately upon their election to public off ice.

Q. What qualifies as a meeting?
A. The Sunshine law applies to all discussions or deliberations as well as the formal action taken by a board or commission. The law, in essence, is applicable to any gathering, whether formal or casual, of two or more members of the same board or commission to discuss some matter on which foreseeable action will be taken by the public board or commission. There is no requirement that a quorum be present for a meeting to be covered under the law.

Northwest Florida State College president Bob Richburg kept the meeting to hire Sansom closed to the public. The law requires minutes of the meeting be submitted for public record. Richburg waited 10 months to file the minutes. Richburg still hasn't explained why the meeting was held at Florida State University.

On the political side: how long can the Republican Party of Florida have their legislative spokesman mired in scandal. Sansom is toast. Keeping Sansom around hurts the state and gives Democrats an easy target. Is that what Florida Republicans want?

Update: Sansom has hired defense attorney Peter Antonacci.

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