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Galvano Setting Up for Sansom Probe

The chairman of a House select committee investigating the conduct of former House Speaker Ray Sansom is hoping to get the ball rolling on the legislative investigation by the end of the month, but he isn't setting a deadline for the group's work.

“I project that it will take longer than if it were just a committee action because you do have a pending ethics commission action as well as criminal actions pending,” said Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. “So the timing actions pending are complex.”

House Special Investigator Steve Kahn released a report Friday that found probable cause to believe that Sansom's dealings with Northwest Florida State College have damaged the "faith and integrity" of the House. Kahn said that Sansom's role in the creation of a leadership institute at the college and his subsequent hiring at the college, in particular, created the appearance of misuse of his position.
The report detailed how Sansom helped steer more than $25 million to the college before he was hired by college President Bob Richburg to a new vice president's position right around the time Sansom ascended to the speakership. Additionally, $6 million for an airport hangar was also placed in the budget, which appeared to benefit Republican party and Sansom contributor Jay Odom.

Sansom had stepped down as speaker prior to the 2009 legislative session, but remained in the Legislature. Kahn's report set the stage for current Speaker Larry Cretul to appoint a select committee to investigate the complaint against Sansom by a private citizen, Susan Smith of Odessa, who alleged that Sansom violated the House rules that requires members to conduct themselves in a way that “promotes public confidence in the integrity” of the House.

The review by the special committee could result in sanctions for Sansom, including dismissal from the House.

In addition to the House probe, Sansom has been indicted by a Leon County grand jury in connection with the case. He also was hit with a complaint before the Florida Ethics Commission. Richburg and Odom have also been indicted.

Joining Galvano on the committee are Rep. Faye Culp, R-Tampa, Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City and Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs.

The state Democratic party immediately criticized Glorioso's inclusion on the committee, however, because he also received a contribution from Odom, about five years ago.

Galvano said he was aware of the Odom contribution, but said Glorioso was not the type of person who could be bought with a check.

“I think the committee with Rep. Gloriso can conduct its business in a fair way,” Galvano said.

Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post reported Monday that court documents from the Sansom case released by Leon County prosecutor Willie Meggs contained some E-mails from a period late last year that the Post had sought in a public records request from the House – but had been told didn’t exist.

House Spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin told The News Service that the House strives to release any public record sought by members of the public, but said House information technology specialists simply didn’t recover any of the Emails that the Post found in the court records. She said a likely explanation may be that the emails were provided to prosecutors by the other party – whoever sent it to Sansom or received it from Sansom – and not recovered from the House. House rules allow members to delete certain emails that they don’t consider important to save for public records purposes.

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