MANATEE — Florida House committee members were deciding evidentiary issues on an ethics complaint for a hearing this morning when the subject of the hearing, former House Speaker Ray Sansom, abruptly resigned his seat Sunday night, committee chairman Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said today.
Asked if the resignation had surprised him, Galvano replied this morning, “It was not something that was part of any negotiated plan, I just think Sansom — his letter — said he reached a point where, under the circumstances, he felt this was the best thing for him to do.
“I heard it when we were in the midst of deciding evidentiary issues,” Galvano added, calling the development “an abrupt end to the committee process.”
Sansom, R-Destin, maintained his innocence in the case, saying in his resignation letter: “On the contrary, I have steadfastly maintained I am innocent of any wrongdoing and I will never relent from that position.”
He insisted he acted properly despite signs that he used his power as House budget writer in 2007 and 2008 to funnel tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, including $6 million for an airport building that a private developer had wanted to use for his corporate jet business.
The Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct adopted a final, two-page report and adjourned today, Galvano said.
“Because of the resignation, we will not be making a formal recommendation to the House regarding the alleged rule violation by Rep. Sansom in connection with the leadership institute joint-use facility and relationship with the college,” Galvano said.
A lawyer for Sansom contended he couldn’t have gotten a fair hearing from Galvano’s panel.
Committee members denied the accusation by Sansom’s lawyer, Gloria Fletcher, that the panel had stacked the deck against her client.
The Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.