Betty Reed weighs in on Ray Sansom

12/05/08 Seán Kinane
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Florida’s new Speaker of the House, Ray Sansom, has been criticized for accepting a position with Northwest Florida State College on the day he became House Speaker. Sansom, a Republican from Destin, helped funnel $25 million to the school earlier this year. Because of that, some have called for Speaker Sansom to resign from one or both of his new positions.

Rep. Betty Reed, a Democrat from Tampa, told WMNF’s Seán Kinane this morning that she is not yet one of those.

“I have not taken a position on that as of yet. I’m waiting to hear from him. I know that he will have something to say in reference to it, and I’m waiting to hear his comments to see, but I haven’t taken a position yet.”

Sansom’s job as vice president for development and planning at Northwest Florida State College, his alma mater, pays $110,000 per year. The website Progress Florida is polling Floridians on whether Sansom should resign from his college job, from Speaker of the House, or both.

Rep. Betty Reed

Speaker of the House Ray Sansom

Previous WMNF coverage of Sansom

Progress Florida

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No evidence of impropriety

Yes… Speaker Sansom and his wife attended Northwest Florida State College aka Okaloosa-Walton Junior College where he received his Associates. He served on the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners from 1992-2000… Okaloosa is his home and Chairwoman Thurman doesn’t say that Speaker Sansom did anything wrong. She simply says “The appearance of impropriety is too great…” And just what are those appearances? Instead of a $1M appropriation, Mr. Sansom is said to have “funneled” $25M into his alma mater… why would he increase that appropriation? ‘…In 2007, the Pappas Consulting Group published its analysis of the State University System, with recommendations for improvements. The Pappas report noted that Florida has the largest number of community colleges offering baccalaureate degree programs in the country; that the state should place more emphasis on increasing these degrees; and that there are advantages to the community college baccalaureate degree as a way for more students to access higher education in Florida…’ ‘…Nine colleges, operating as the Pilot Project, will collaborate with the Florida College System Task Force and will make recommendations for a baccalaureate degree program approval process, criteria for transition of an institution from a community college to a state college, and the development of the funding model for the new state colleges…’ And Northwest Florida State College is one of them. Some have pointed to the lack of a posted position as an impropriety… when asked about this NWF State College President Bob Richburg said, "I have the authority to hire temporary full time (up to a year) and then go through a posting process." If Sansom does a poor job, the position could open up in 2010. What is Northwest Florida State College getting for that $110,000? Not only is Mr. Sansom doing the exact job as his retired predecessor, Jim Chitwood, but they have added: ‘…assist Richburg in preparing for the training, education, and support responsibilities that will come with the relocation of the U.S. Army's 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Eglin Air Force Base and the opening of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Training Center at Eglin by 2011… Sansom also will formalize agreements with local governments for training emergency personnel and for the use of the college's Community Services Complex during natural disasters. The 120,000-square-foot facility now under construction at the Niceville campus will house the Okaloosa County 911 Emergency Operations Center, college athletic and instructional programs and serve as the county's primary hurricane shelter…’ And NFS will not be giving Mr. Sansom health care benefits during this period. Some have sited the coincidental timing of both appointments… as for when the announcement was made by the school, ‘…the college's governing Board of Trustees appointed Sansom to the position November 18 at the board's regular meeting in Niceville…’ Again… No evidence of impropriety.