Well before state Rep. Ray Sansom got $6 million for an airport building, he and Bob Richburg flew down to Port St. Lucie, where they got a tour of Indian River Community College from school officials and Sen. Ken Pruitt.
Tagging along with Sansom and Richburg: Jay Odom.
The trip was alluded to in an email we reported on yesterday, one that may have led to the perjury indictment against Sansom. The Destin Republican allegedly told a grand jury he did not know there were plans for Odom to use the taxpayer-funded hangar at Destin Airport.
The trip raises new questions about the Sansom-Richburg-Odom alliance. But Pruitt says has no idea what the men took away from it other than an understanding of Indian River's innovative ideas surrounding bio-tech and a public safety training project.
"I have no idea of their motivation," the Port St. Lucie Republican told the Times/Herald. "I can't tell you when they left there what was the motivation for what they did."
In 2007 -- two years after the visit -- Sansom got the money for a building that Northwest Florida State College said would be for a first-responder training center.
But there are plenty of signs that it was also going to be used by Odom's private jet business -- signs a grand jury used to indict Sansom, Richburg and, now, Odom.
Pruitt said visits from other college officials to Indian River were not uncommon and that he proudly participated. "I am very, very proud of my college and if you ever have a chance to come over here, you'll see why," he said. "I believe it is one of the premier colleges in the state, if not the whole country. They have undertaken bold initiatives."
He said his recollection of the 2005 visit is not entirely clear but that Northwest Florida State College (then Okaloosa-Walton College) wanted to get a sense of the school's vision.
Asked why Odom was there, Pruitt said he understood his interest as "part of the community supporting the college."
Pruitt's favored college got its share of PECO funding (though, unlike Sansom, he did not take a job there) during the height of his power in the Legislature. But Pruitt stands by it, pointing to the school's success. And he said his focus on overall appropriations was with the Senate, not what the House was doing.
"Whenever PECO projects came out, the one group I was worried about was my senators and whether my senators were accommodated in the process."