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Marco Rubio tied to another secret legislative deal during Florida House Speakership in 2007 [View All]

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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-02-10 04:01 PM
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Marco Rubio tied to another secret legislative deal during Florida House Speakership in 2007
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Edited on Thu Sep-02-10 04:55 PM by seafan
Well, well.

Another secret deal Marco Rubio oversaw during his tenure as Florida House Speaker.







St. Petersburg Times Senior Correspondent Lucy Morgan has examined it in great detail.


August 31, 2010:

TALLAHASSEE A preliminary review of funding for the "Taj Mahal'' courthouse indicates the 1st District Court of Appeal may have spent money initially appropriated for other purposes and got $16 million in a raid on the state's Workers' Compensation Trust Fund, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Monday. ---LINK




While most state courts face harsh budget cuts, the 1st District Court of Appeal gets a $48 million 'Taj Mahal', August 9, 2010

'Taj Mahal' courthouse takes heat from officials, August 11, 2010

A monument to all that is wrong in Tallahassee, August 15, 2010

Alex Sink orders audit of 'Taj Mahal' courthouse finances, August 31, 2010




On the last day of the Florida legislative session in 2007, a secret budget item found its way into a 142-page transportation bill. It was for a behemoth new courthouse for 15 judges sitting on the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. Splendid in its construction, it gives each judge "...a 60-inch LCD flat screen television in chambers (trimmed in mahogany), a private bathroom (featuring granite countertops) and a kitchen (complete with microwave and refrigerator)."

Two of the 1st District judges were heavily involved in lobbying the legislature in 2007 for this project.

Chief Judge Paul Hawkes and Judge Brad Thomas, lobbied furiously for the new building. The two spent so much time walking the halls of the Legislature that some lawmakers wondered when they had time to be judges.



How's that for breach of judicial protocol?


These two judges have quite an interesting history:


Hawkes and Thomas made use of their legislative and budget experience. Hawkes, a former House member, was once the GOP point man on the budget and helped write House rules. (His son, Jeremiah Hawkes, was general counsel for the House (under Marco Rubio) when the construction bond issue was approved.)

Thomas, a longtime Senate staffer, was staff director for the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee when (Senator Victor) Crist (of Tampa) was chairman. Thomas also worked in Gov. Jeb Bush's budget office.

Bush appointed Hawkes to the appellate court in 2003 and Thomas in 2005.



....

Now, a key legislator has raised new questions about how that happened. Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, was chairman of the House committee that oversaw court expenditures. Dean says he rejected a plea from Hawkes and Thomas to fund the courthouse after Dean toured the existing courthouse. He said he rejected it because the state was slashing budgets, and he said the courts had more important needs than the construction of a new courthouse for the appellate court.

Dean said Hawkes and Thomas indicated they would go around him to get the funding they needed.

"He (Hawkes) just looked at me and grinned and said, 'I got friends,' '' Dean said.

Dean said the two judges had help from Richard Corcoran, then chief of staff for House Speaker Marco Rubio, and from Hawkes' son Jeremiah, who was general counsel for Rubio.

In final budget negotiations that year, Dean said the decision about money for the courthouse was bumped up to then-Appropriations Chairman Ray Sansom and Rubio. The final budget included $7.9 million to begin planning and construction.

"The next thing I knew, they were going to build a building,'' Dean said. He said he didn't know about the last-minute bond issue amendment until he read about it this month in the St. Petersburg Times.

Corcoran, now a Republican nominee for the House from Pasco County, has denied helping Hawkes and Thomas get the project funded. Rubio said the project was a Senate priority that was not controversial at the time, and he said it never would have passed had lawmakers known how the money would be spent.



Is that why the lawmakers weren't informed of this secret deal when you were Speaker, Rubio? So you could get yet another pet project underway for your friends, using public money before anyone found out about it? And while the rest of Florida's court system rotted in neglect?



Wait, there's that name Ray Sansom again....he was former House Speaker Marco Rubio's Budget Chief.



Well, I'll be.



I would be remiss if I didn't point out Sansom's criminality:


Sansom, former House Speaker Marco Rubio's hand-picked Budget Chief, is currently one of three defendants in a corruption case, in which he secretly obtained a $6 million legislative appropriation for two of his Panhandle buddies for a private airplane hangar, in return for a lucrative kickback. So far, Rubio has escaped giving testimony about his right-hand man.

Very recently, Sansom had the chance to enter into a plea deal in his corruption case, but he rejected it because in addition to repaying the state $310,000 (paid to the architect who designed the airplane hangar), he and his co-defendants would have been required to complete 1-6 months on a sheriff's work detail, picking up trash along the roadsides while wearing striped prison garb.

Hell no! That was just TOO humiliating to Rubio's buddy Sansom.

Sansom's case goes on....



Back to the Taj Mahal story:



A monument to all that is wrong in Tallahassee

St Petersburg Times Editorial
August 15, 2010



(LUCY MORGAN | Times)


The new 1st District Court of Appeal building in Tallahassee, at a cost of $48 million, represents everything wrong in the state capital, from insider excesses to under-the-radar funding.


The obscene excess of a new $48 million courthouse in Tallahassee will be a permanent reminder of why voters distrust government to spend taxpayer dollars wisely. It represents everything wrong in a state capital where insider dealing and secrecy, rather than obligations to Floridians, dictate policy.

St. Petersburg Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan detailed last Sunday how 1st District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Paul Hawkes and Judge Brad Thomas lobbied legislative leaders in 2007 to secure a little-noticed deal for an ostentatious courthouse that even the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court did not support. As the Legislature in subsequent years slashed courts' operating budgets statewide, forcing layoffs and increasing backlogs, its leaders remained committed to the palatial new home for a few friends and colleagues at the court.

Hawkes and Thomas are longtime Republican insiders, former staffers for the Legislature and former Gov. Jeb Bush. Hawkes had served two House terms representing Crystal River. Clearly, this pair felt entitled to a setting worthy of their lofty status. They sought a courthouse that mimicked the Michigan Supreme Court building. It was to have 60-inch TVs, granite-trimmed bathrooms and private kitchens in each mahogany-trimmed judge's chamber. To help foot the bill in an economy already slowing in 2007, Hawkes and Thomas convinced legislative leaders to borrow $33.5 million for the building and charge the court rent an unprecedented arrangement.

Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, enabled the deal by tucking an amendment into a transportation bill on the last day of the 2007 session. Crist claimed he was just doing then-Senate President Ken Pruitt's bidding. Now Pruitt and Gov. Charlie Crist, who signed the bill into law, seem to have amnesia. The governor doesn't recall then-Chief Justice Fred Lewis asking him to veto the deal. Then-House Speaker Marco Rubio said he didn't know the details of the courthouse, just that it was a Senate priority.

But such under-the-radar deals were common. In the same session in which the courthouse was approved, Rubio's budget chief, Rep. Ray Sansom, set aside $6 million in the budget for an airplane hangar sought by a political contributor and disguised as a classroom building for a local community college. Sansom now faces grand theft charges.


.....



(bold type added)


Once again, Marco Rubio pleads ignorance of what transpired in his office during his tenure as Speaker.




One thing remains crystal clear with these latest revelations.



Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush's apprentice, must be defeated on November's US Senate ballot.





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