As if the feud with his fellow lawmaker/cousin wasn’t interesting enough, Rep. Baxter Troutman dropped the Ray Sansom bomb in reference to Sen. J.D. Alexander.. Outside of the fact that the former House Speaker’s name is now synonymous with conflicts of interest, invoking his name is sure to test the temper of Alexander, who’s a budget chief in the Senate. Sansom held the post in the House in 07-08 and was indicted for his budget dealings.
The two Republican grandsons of Ben Hill Griffin (and cousins of former U.S. Rep/Secretary of State Katherine Harris) have clashed in the corporate board and court room. And last session, Troutman thought Alexander was behind an extraordinary move to temporarily ban him from the Senate floor (Alexander denies involvement) after the representative got in a spat with Sen. Mike Haridopolos over an aboriculture bill.
Yeah, that’s right. Arboriculture. More here
The family feud flared anew yesterday, when Troutman put pressure on Alexander by filing a letter saying he’d abstain from voting on SunRail because the family company, Phoenix Industries, could profit from the SunRail deal with CSX. Alexander, who heads the company, said a 2008 Senate general counsel letter advised him he could vote on the matter. (Both are listed below)
Troutman pointed out that, on Phoenix Industries website, it bills itself as having “developed unique dedicated service offerings with CSX…” and that the warehousing and distribution company is an “approved transloader for CSX.”
Since Alexander is the managing member of the company, should he abstain from a Sunrail vote?
“I can’t speak for JD. I’m not going to speak for JD. I’m just looking out for me. And though he’s a very dear friend of mine – Ray Sansom. Need I say more? I just don’t feel comfortable voting on something that I could financially gain from,” Troutman said.
“I don’t feel like voting on something that could be Kryptonite,” Troutman said. “JD’s going to do what JD’s going to do. He’s made that abundantly clear in Tallahassee for the past 12 years. I’m just going to do what’s right for me. In this atmosphere, I don’t feel comfortable making this vote.”
Said Alexander: “I have an opinion from the Senate general counsel in 2008 and I have relied on that opinion that found no specific conflict. In an abundance of caution, I have asked the Senate general counsel to review the situation again to see if any facts changed since 08 that would cause him to believe that there was any issue I needed to be concerned about. I’m waiting on that review to be concluded.
“I know of no reason that I cannot participate in that issue but in an abundance of caution I’m asking that the Senate general counsel to take a second look.”
Would your family business profit?
Alexander: "Given Baxter’s statements I have authorized the Senate general counsel to have full access to the president of Phoenix Industries to discuss the business with them that it does with CSX, which is de minimus. In 08 it was less than 2 percent of its revenues related to CSX."
So the family business would profit from SunRail?
Alexander: “I don’t know that it would or wouldn’t. Nobody can tell. It might or might not. Read the opinion. It speaks to that – in detail. This is a very detailed legal opinion. I don’t believe the issue has changed in the year and three-quarters since it was issued. In the opinion of counsel, it does not rise to the level of me having to abstain.”
Do you own any other land along this rail corridor or any other rail corridors that could stand to benefit?
Alexander: "I don’t have any other land than that piece right there. Not that I’m aware of. I don’t have anything particularly close to any of this."
Troutman said he did not request a general counsel’s opinion.
“I just don’t feel comfortable voting on the bill because of the obvious potential conflict of interest that I have. I’ve spoken with the speaker and I’ve spoken with the rules chair and I’ve spoken with House legal counsel,” Troutman said.
“We get shot at lot. And you have to live above reproach, I just think it’s the judicious and smart and the prudent thing to do. I’ve voted on citrus matters before. I’m a citrus grower. But there are thousands of citrus growers. There’s not thousands of these types of facilities in Polk County.”