In November of 2008, State Representative Ray Sansom (R-Destin) was elected Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. The same day, a public announcement was made that he was also hired by Northwest Florida State College in a part-time position for more than $100,000 per year.
The timing was not a good thing.
It smacked of impropriety.
So the media did what media do: they dug deeper.
They found an appropriation in last year’s budget. NFSC received a nice big chunk of Public Education Captial Outlay (PECO) money – used to build classroom facilities. More money than Governor Crist had recommended. It was part of a far-larger longer-term request for $122 million, delivered to Sansom rather than passing through the normal budgetary review process. Turns out, Sansom was budget chief last year.
They found email after email from NFSC leadership to Sansom about that money, discussing the likelihood of a Crist line-item veto. Sansom responding that he would help fight for it.
It smacked of quid pro quo.
Democrats and liberal groups started attacking Sansom’s integrity and credibility. They started a poll on whether he should resign. Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman called for a federal investigation.
(Now, I understand his silence. Nothing is more suspect than an innocent man proclaiming his innocence.)
The media stories and attacks from the left have painted a very grim picture of the Speaker. One that, I believe, is far from reality.
There are two aspects to review: the money NFSC recived, and the job Sansom received.
NFSC wants to grow, to expand higher education opportunities for residents in the panhandle. To do this, they need additional funds – especially for construction. When the normal budget process through the Executive Branch resulted in less funds than NFSC wanted, they asked their state representative for assistance. He delivered. That happens all the time in Tallahassee, and there are numerous examples that could be cited.
Later in the same calendar year, the college hired Sansom for a part time position as Vice President of Development and Planning. He has a Masters in Education, so he has some qualifications. He was Community Affairs Director for the Okaloosa County School District. He even attended NFSC (when it was Okaloosa-Walton Community College). There may be other qualified candidates, but Speaker Sansom would be on that list.
Either situation, taken separately would not rise to the level of newsworthiness this story has. For many in the media, that would be the rub.
He fought for money for NFSC. He then got a job at NFSC. Read those two statements to any reasonable person, and they will jump to the same conclusion the media did: something fishy going on here.
To me, however, this seems like a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc.