If House Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, is guilty of misuse of his office, it is sad for him and his family.
If he is Not Guilty, it is a disaster for Florida.
There is little dispute about the facts.
In 2008, at the same time he took a $110,000 part time job with Northwest Florida State College, he steered $35 million scarce tax dollars to the school.
A chunk of the money was to build the school an airplane hanger that had more value for a builder friend than it did for the school.
If he was on the payroll of a private company the law would be clear: The Speaker is Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.
But since the school is a public entity it is not so clear. And that is the nub of the problem.
We lack a legal bright line separating the activities of government officials (elected and employed) and their personal business. Every day private companies, as well as government agencies, hire government officials to represent them before other branches of government.
It is wrong, wrong, wrong.
After talking to friends around the country, I don’t believe it is allowed in most other states. If any readers know otherwise, I would be glad to hear from you.
To borrow the title of a 1950′s newspaper cartoon, “There Oughta Be a Law. And here is what it should say:
- If you draw a paycheck from a government agency, you cannot hold elective office anywhere. You want to be a teacher or a school principal that’s fine. You just can’t be on the School Board, in the Legislature or hold elective office with any governmental subdivision.
If you draw a public paycheck you cannot lobby for anyone other than the agency that gives you that paycheck.
It is perfectly okay for a city commissioner to go to Tallahassee to fight for funds for the city. But they should not be allowed to make a dime to lobby the Legislature, the Public Service Commission or the Dogcatcher, even if it is on behalf of crippled orphans.
You want to make public service a financial springboard that’s fine. But you should be required to wait for at least two years after you have left public service.
Right now this politically incestuous behavior is unseemly. It should be a crime.