Rep. Bill Galvano stepped up and did the right thing this week when he recommended that a special investigator be appointed to look into an ethics complaint against House Speaker Ray Sansom.
Sansom, R-Destin, now facing three separate investigations, announced on Friday that he would take temporary leave while contending with all his legal issues.
He finally came to his senses that he could not possibly lead the House effectively during this tumultuous time, with the Legislature grappling with billions more in budget cuts for the coming fiscal year. All that work begins next week as committees meet ahead of the March regular session.
Galvano serves as chair of the House Rules & Calendar Council. Once the complaint was filed, the Bradenton Republican was required to determine whether Sansom should be investigated over alleged violations of House rules on integrity, legislative ethics and official conduct.
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Sansom, a Destin Republican, appointed Galvano chair of that powerful committee. The two are friends. Galvano put those considerations aside, as he must in complaints like these.
The controversy surrounding Sansom has been building for weeks now, all over allegations he violated ethics and corruption laws by using his legislative position to gain a $110,000-a-year community college job after steering $35 million in extra or accelerated state appropriations to Northwest Florida State College.
Sansom’s troubles doubled this week when a Tallahassee grand jury decided to launch a formal criminal investigation into the speaker’s relationship with the Panhandle school.
That probe includes questions about the $6 million Sansom added to the 2007 budget for a college airport facility that the school did not request. The project is almost identical to a hangar that a Destin developer and Sansom associate wanted for his jet business.
Plus, the state ethics commission has opened its own investigation.
Sansom denies all charges.
Eight days ago, we urged Galvano to approve an ethics inquiry. We applaud his action, which he described as a “tortured” decision. No doubt about that.
Doing the right thing is often difficult. Sansom finally took his cue.