Embattled Speaker Steps Down… For Now

By: Whitney Ray
By: Whitney Ray

Under mounting pressure from constituents, fellow lawmakers, and investigators, embattled Speaker Ray Sansom is temporarily stepping down as leader of the Florida House.

Earlier Friday Miami Republican Rep. J.C. Planas publicly called for Sansom’s resignation. A Leon County Grand Jury is investigating Sansom for funneling more than 25 million dollars to a Destin college, then taking a six figure job with the school. House lawmakers have also called for a special investigator to review Sansom’s dealings with the school.

Sansom notified House members of his decision early Friday. His office released this statement.

“Effective immediately, I have decided to recuse myself from the exercise of my duties as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Ongoing legal proceedings have temporarily created an inability for me to carry out my responsibilities as Speaker. Under the House rules, during this temporary inability, Speaker pro tempore Larry Cretul will exercise all the duties, powers and prerogatives of Speaker.”

“I know Larry will manage the House with distinction and it will be an honor for me to serve under him at this time, until any legal proceedings I face are resolved. The allegations and reports associated with these proceedings have caused my family grave pain and this has prompted my decision. I expect positive outcomes and am confident that when the facts are known, my honesty and integrity will be confirmed,” said Sansom.

Governor Charlie Crist, who has been reluctant to speak against the speaker, released this statement.

“I respect Speaker Sansom’s difficult decision today. There is important work ahead of us in the upcoming session, and I am eager to work with members of the House and Senate to address the challenges facing Floridians,” said Crist.

Investigations into Sansom’s dealings with the college will likely carry on for months.

In an interview with a Pensacola television station, Sansom called the allegations “politics as usual.”

“Unfortunately, the speaker is allegedly caught in a massive criminal corruption conspiracy where he got six million dollars for his friend and major donor Jay Odem so he could build an airplane covered hangar after Jay Odem gave a 500,000 dollars to the Republican Party of Florida. That’s not politics as usual. That’s what sends people to jail,” says Eric Jotkoff with the Florida Democratic Party.

Sansom says he expects his name to be cleared.

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