Thurman Requests Federal Authorities Investigate Sansom's Airport Deal

News from the Florida Democratic Party:

Tallahassee, FL - Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman today requested that federal law enforcement authorities investigate embattled Speaker Ray Sansom's deal in which Sansom allegedly conspired with Jay Odom and officials at Northwest Florida State College to deliver more than $6 million to build an airport hanger that documents show was to be used by Odom, one of Sansom and the Republican Party of Florida's largest donors.

As reported by the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau, in emails between NFSC President Bob Richburg and Sansom, Richburg advised the embattled Speaker that he should, "Thank the board for 'accepting responsibility' [for the airport building]."

Earlier, Thurman called on Governor Charlie Crist to order state law enforcement officials to investigate this matter. Preferring to allow Republican corruption to fester under his watch, Crist instead continues to defend Sansom.

In a letter to the Acting United States Attorney for Northern Florida Thomas F. Kirwin, Thurman wrote:

December 18, 2008

Thomas F. Kirwin
Acting United States Attorney
Northern District of Florida
111 N. Adams Street, 4th Floor
Tallahassee, FL 32301

Dear Mr. Kirwin,

I write today to respectfully request a full investigation into a case of alleged public corruption involving Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom.

On the same day that Ray Sansom was sworn in as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Northwest Florida State College announced that Sansom was hired for a part-time, $110,000 per year job. As the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau and other media outlets throughout Florida began investigating, we learned that before taking this job, Sansom delivered more than $25 million to the college and pushed legislation to allow the school to offer 4 year degrees.

The Times/Herald reported that more than $6 million of the money he delivered to the college was to build a hanger at the Destin Airport, on land controlled by Sansom's friend and major donor Jay Odom. Despite being funded by taxpayer dollars, this hanger would be used by Odom most of the time to store his jets according to the Times/Herald, citing documents and Odom's airport operations manager. On December 14, 2008 the Times/Herald reported that they obtained emails between NFSC President Bob Richburg and Sansom, where "Richburg suggested that when they all were together, Sansom should thank the board for "accepting responsibility" for an emergency training center at Destin Airport," further suggesting that the airport building was to be used by Odom.

Additionally, the Palm Beach Post uncovered the fact that Sansom used his government office to fax in his job application to the college as well.

On December 9th, I called on Governor Charlie Crist to "immediately order the appropriate law enforcement agencies to investigate this matter to clear the ethics cloud around Sansom caused by the appearance of quid-pro-quo corruption." Rather than ordering an investigation, Crist simply said, "Next question," while continuing to defend Ray Sansom. Therefore, I take the extraordinary step today of requesting an investigation of this matter by federal law enforcement authorities.

Sincerely,

Congresswoman Karen L. Thurman
Chair, Florida Democratic Party


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