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Sansom expected to step down

Besieged by criticism and facing several investigations into his dealings with a state college, House Speaker Ray Sansom is expected to resign his post today. A statement is expected soon and Rep. Larry Cretul, the speaker pro tem, will take over temporarily.

Top House Republicans have been talking with Sansom to arrange for him to step down, as he faces a grand jury probe and ethics investigations after taking an unadvertised $110,000 job at Northwest Florida State College on the same day be became speaker two months ago.

Sansom helped the college get millions in extra construction money but has strenuously defended his actions, saying the money was available and that the budget was open for all to scrutinize before it was voted on.

Most seriously, perhaps, is a $6-million airport building Sansom got money for in 2007.

The college said it will use the money to build a emergency training and response facility, though questions have been raised by the Times/Herald about whether a developer and Sansom ally, Jay Odom, planned to use it for his private jet operation.

Sansom, R-Destin, would at least temporarily be replaced by Cretul, R-Ocala, according to the negotiated deal. That could set off a scramble among other Republicans to replace Sansom and take over for the next two years.

But is also likely that Sansom will step down only until the investigations are complete.

Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, was among those calling for Sansom to resign. "I don't think Ray had criminal intent," he said. "That's not Ray Sansom. He' a good man. And he's a good leader. But this isn't the time for him to lead."