April 29, 2010

Cretul honored in House ceremony

The “accidental” (or providential, according to Adam Hasner) speaker was honored in the House today. Larry Cretul, of Ocala, took over just before session last year ex-Speaker Ray Sansom stepped down.

“Your leadership last session literally kept the wheels from coming off the bus,” said Rep. Dean Cannon, who is in line to be speaker next year.

(Sansom seems to have been air-brushed out of the House; the line of portraits above the floor skips directly from Marco Rubio to Cretul.)

In a 10-minute speech that focused mainly on thanking family, staffers and fellow legislators, Cretul said, “We Have done the best we could to restore public trust and the faith of the Florida House.” He also implored members to change the culture where “integrity, character and principles have become less important than bringing home the bacon.”

April 27, 2010

Sansom gets love in House farewells

The members of the House's "senior class" are giving farewell speeches in the final two weeks. Beyond the abhorrent length of the goodbye remarks, it's interesting to note one name that keeps getting mentioned: former Speaker Ray Sansom.

Sansom, a Destin Republican, resigned earlier this year under the weight of a criminal probe and ethics complaint into his secret budget projects. The criminal indictment of Sansom condemned the legislative process as a whole for its secrecy and the influence of special interests.

But apparently some lawmakers see it differently. Reps. Juan Zapata, Mary Bradenburg and Baxter Troutman all thanked Sansom for his leadership and friendship. It's striking given that most House members were reluctant to defend Sansom as the criminal investigation unfolded.

On Tuesday, Troutman, a Winter Haven Republican, called the Sansom scandal an "unnecessary witch hunt."

April 23, 2010

Speaking of portraits ... Sansom won't get one

The House will unveil a portrait of Speaker Larry Cretul next week but don't expect a likeness of his disgraced predecessor, Ray Sansom.

Sansom served at the helm of the House for 2 1/2 months before he stepped down amid questions that led to his indictment and later his resignation. The traditional oil portrait was never commissioned.

"There will only be one portrait hung," Cretul said.

April 21, 2010

Feds and IRS launch inquiry into Sansom, Rubio, Greer credit cards

Read Herald/Times exclusive here.

April 12, 2010

How a junior Fla GOP staffer racked up $1.3-million in charges

She was a 25-year-old junior staffer when the Florida Republican Party gave her an American Express card.

Over the next 2½ years, nearly $1.3 million in charges wound up on Melanie Phister's AmEx — $40,000 at a London hotel, and nearly $20,000 in plane tickets for indicted former House Speaker Ray Sansom, his wife and kids, for starters. Statements show thousands spent on jewelry, sporting goods and in one case $15,000 for what's listed as a month-long stay at a posh Miami Beach hotel, but which the party says was a forfeited deposit.

The credit card records, obtained by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, offer the latest behind-the-scenes look at extravagant and free-wheeling spending by the party touting fiscal restraint. Not only did certain elite legislative leaders have their own party credit cards to spend donors' money with little oversight, but Phister's records show these leaders also liberally used an underling's card — without her knowledge, she says.

(Story story)

Who spent more on RPOF AmEX: Rubio, Sansom or Cannon?

April 01, 2010

All the people that supported Jim Greer

In the political fallout from the criminal investigation of Jim Greer, one question remaining is who it will hurt. Gov. Charlie Crist was the obvious target when the initial news broke, given that he handpicked Greer for the GOP helm. But this flier for Greer's re-election -- slogan, "The service we trust. The leadership we need -- as chairman includes many more bold-faced names: including Attorney General Bill McCollum, Senate President Jeff Atwater and disgraced Speaker Ray Sansom and former Speaker Marco Rubio.

See the invite here.

March 02, 2010

House looks to move past specter of Sansom

The House gaveled to order this morning short one member: former Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin. House Speaker Larry Cretul, who took over for Sansom, didn't dodge the issue in his opening remarks. "Over the last year we have traveled some difficult roads, but today, I intend to look through the windshield and not through the rear view mirror," he said in prepared remarks.

Cretul delivered a stern message when it came to addressing the state's potential $3.2 billion deficit. "We will not play accounting games like they do in Sacramento or Albany," he said.

He also indicated state agencies must accept some of the pain. "Every year the agencies come before you and ask for more taxpayer money ... and they are asked rarely if what they are doing is actually working," Cretul said.

February 10, 2010

Galvano turns to Jefferson to learn he can't subpoena senators

In the wake of the decision this morning by the House Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct  to issue subpoenas for the Feb. 22 hearing involving former House Speaker Ray Sansom, the committee chairman did a little research.

Rep. Bill Galvano turned to a 1854 copy of Thomas Jefferson's "Manual of Parlimentary Practice,'' and discovered that well, nevermind, they won't be sending subpoenas to Sens. Don Gaetz, Mike Haridopolos, Dennis Jones and Joe Negron, all Republicans. They'll simply have to ask them to cooperate, and voluntarily appear.

Jefferson writes that "either House may request but not command the attendance of a member of the other...They are to make the request by message to the other House and express the purpose of attendance...The House then gives leave to attend if he chooses to attend.'' A cleaner version of the rule is outlined in Mason's Manuel of Legislative Procedure. Galvano, as House Rules Committee Chairman, told the Herald/Times that he relies on both books often, as they provide the foundation for the House's rules.

"They're on a list and we wanted to procedurally not hamstring either party to comeback on the eve of the hearing and say they didn't have an opportunity to subpoena this person or that person,'' Galvano said. "We're not going to get in a match over this stuff with them. We'll work with them to cooperate. I think they'll cooperate.''

He said the list of potential witnesses will depend on the issues in the hearing. "The list doesn't mean these people will testify. We still have to determine the relevance of their testimony.,''

House panel approves Sansom's witness list

At a brief hearing Wednesday morning, the Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct voted to issue subpoenas for the scheduled Feb. 22 hearing on allegations of misconduct against former House Speaker Ray Sansom.

The Destin lawmaker's list of potential witnesses numbers 35 people, including former Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio and six other legislators: Sens. Don Gaetz, Mike Haridopolos, Dennis Jones and Joe Negron and Reps. Mary Brandenburg and Marti Coley. Two former House members also could be called to testify: Joe Pickens, now president of St. Johns Community College in Palatka, and David Mealor, an associate vice president at UCF.

The testimony by Rubio at a hearing on Sansom's conduct would be a full-blown media spectacle. The name of former Sen. Lisa Carlton of Osprey, Sansom's budget-writing counterpart in 2007, has dropped off the list of potential witnesses.

The five-member committee also OK'd its independent counsel's request to issue subpoenas to 25 individuals who may be called to testify against Sansom. Most are linked to Northwest Florida State College, the school that offered Sansom a job after he secured millions of dollars in state funding as House budget chairman.

Sansom, accompanied by his attorney Gloria Fletcher, attended the brief meeting. Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, confirmed he has had initial discussions with Fletcher on a possible "consent decree" with Sansom, but Galvano said at this point he expects the hearing to go forward. "We're well prepared to have a hearing on the matter. It's been pending for quite some time," Galvano said. 

-- Steve Bousquet