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Committee to Decide Whether to Hold Off on Sansom Inquiry

The committee of lawmakers investigating former House Speaker Ray Sansom will decide next week whether to suspend the committee's work until criminal proceedings can be completely resolved or forge ahead.

Committee Chair Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, told the News Service Wednesday that the committee will decide together how it should respond to a request by Sansom's attorney to halt its investigation of the Destin Republican's actions that landed him with a criminal indictment last spring.

Stephen Dobson, Sansom's attorney, wrote a letter to House Speaker Larry Cretul last week requesting that the speaker order the committee to stop its work investigating a complaint against Sansom.

“At this time, any investigation undertaken by the independent counsel of the Committee has the potential to jeopardize Representative Sansom's criminal case and perpetuate the creation of unduly prejudicial pretrial media coverage, which could prevent Representative Sansom from obtaining an impartial jury panel,” Dobson wrote.

A grand jury indicted Sansom, along with Okaloosa developer Jay Odom and former Northwest Florida College President Bob Richburg on official misconduct charges this past spring. Sansom and Richburg were also slapped with perjury charges. Leon County Judge Terry Lewis gutted the official misconduct charges against the three men, and dismissed Richburg's perjury charge. Sansom's perjury charge still stands.

The state attorney's office has also filed an appeal, but the First District Court of Appeal has not yet decided whether it will hear the case.

The charges stem from whether Sansom acted improperly as budget chairman when he steered millions of dollars to Northwest Florida State College, an institution that later gave him a job and appeared to be building a structure that would house aircrafts for Sansom friend and contributor Odom.

Separately, a rules complaint was filed against Sansom by an Odessa resident saying that the former speaker had damaged the integrity of the Legislature, which led to the formation of a special committee to investigate the matter.

At a meeting last month, the committee agreed to hire former statewide prosecutor Melanie Hines as an independent counsel to lay out the case against Sansom. Galvano said Hines has started work and has already reviewed a report by House special investigator Steve Kahn.

He said if the committee determines it should continue its work, he would like to hold a hearing in January where witnesses would be called to testify.

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