By BRUCE COLLIER
Florida House of Representatives Speaker Ray Sansom and Northwest Florida State College (NFSC) president Robert Richburg have been indicted by a Leon County grand jury. The indictment, dated April 17, is two pages in length and includes two separate counts.
Count one names both men. The indictment reads that both Sansom and Richburg “did unlawfully falsify, or cause another person to falsify, an official record or official document, the 2007 – 2008 General Appropriations Act and/or the Joint Use Project Note, with corrupt intent to obtain a benefit for any person, or to cause harm to another….”
Count two, naming Richburg only, alleges that Richburg “did unlawfully make a false statement, which he did not believe to be true, under oath administered by William N. Meggs [Leon County State Attorney] in an official proceeding, a meeting of the Fall 2008 Grand Jury, in regard to a material matter, as follows: he testified that the building that was the subject of the Grand Jury investigation was not designed as a hangar and/or there was never intention or discussion after the appropriation was made, that Jay Odom or Destin Jet would use the building….”
The matters referred to concern alleged misconduct over funding of a “multi-use educational facility” at Destin Airport, which was to be built on property leased from Okaloosa County by developer Jay Odom. The grand jury alleged that Sansom had falsified budget documents to fund construction of an aircraft hangar and create the impression that NFSC would use the facility for educational purposes. Richburg’s allegedly false statement denied that there had been discussion about Odom’s using the facility. Odom was not charged with any offenses.
The remainder of the indictment consists of a 10-page presentment, advising the Legislature to “clean up” the process by which funding is implemented. Though the presentment makes a number of points about alleged circumvention of legislative checks and balances, and touches on campaign contributions, Sunshine Law violations, and inferences of “impropriety,” the presentment does not bring criminal charges, merely advises the Legislature.
Richburg has reportedly put himself on unpaid leave pending a special April 28 meeting of the NFSC Board of Trustees. It is not certain whether the board will be prepared to act on that date, but the matter will be raised and discussed. Neither Richburg nor Sansom have commented on the matter.