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Reply #13: Newly surfaced e-mail identifies Marco Rubio and others as "heroes" in funding for lavish courthouse [View All]

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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-22-10 09:03 PM
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13. Newly surfaced e-mail identifies Marco Rubio and others as "heroes" in funding for lavish courthouse
Well, glory be.

This story is GETTING LEGS.

September 2, 2010: Marco Rubio tied to another secret legislative deal during Florida House Speakership in 2007

September 16, 2010: Rubio denies responsibility for 'Taj Mahal' courthouse funding

September 22, 2010:

Marco Rubio, what do you have to say for yourself NOW?

E-mail names 'heroes' who got legislative funding for 'Taj Mahal' courthouse

By Lucy Morgan, Times Senior Correspondent
Sept 22, 2010 04:30 AM

The 1st District Court of Appeals new courthouse under construction near Tallahassee, as it looked Sept. 1. (St. Petersburg Times)

Sometimes being a "hero'' isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Take Marco Rubio. Since the story first broke about the palatial new courthouse being built in Tallahassee, the former House speaker has said it was a Senate priority, and he couldn't even remember the money being appropriated to build it.

But now the St. Petersburg Times has obtained an e-mail circulated among the judges on the courthouse building committee that identifies the "heroes'' in delivering the money to build it.

Among them, the e-mail identifies a select few who were "especially helpful,'' including Rubio.

"I have never heard of this list'' of heroes, Rubio said this week. "I was aware of a request to build a new courthouse for the 1st DCA, but it was not something I worked on as speaker.''

The $48 million courthouse for the 1st District Court of Appeal has been panned for its opulence at a time when money is tight. Plans initially called for each judge to get a 60-inch flat-screen TV in his or her mahogany-paneled chambers, and for each judge to get a private bathroom and kitchen, with granite counter tops. Some extras were scrapped after the negative publicity.

Recent news stories told how money to build the "Taj Mahal'' courthouse was slipped through as an amendment to an unrelated, 142-page transportation bill on the last day of the 2007 legislative session. Lawmakers were quick to condemn the over-the-top features and the legislative process that funded them, which is why lawmakers who generally can't get enough of being treated as heroes want no part of the "heroes'' e-mail.


(bold type added)

I have never heard of this list of heroes, former state House speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio said this week. I was aware of a request to build a new courthouse for the 1st DCA, but it was not something I worked on as Speaker. (AP)

It appears that this man is lying.

More than just listing heroes, the e-mail named a select list of those "especially helpful'' in getting the funding, including Rubio and Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.

Dated April 29, 2008, the e-mail exchanged by judges on the building committee and court staffers encouraged them to personally thank those who helped secure the funding.

It listed seven House members, five senators, three lobbyists, six Senate and 10 House staffers, and Florida State University president T.K. Wetherell.

Rubio, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, has repeatedly said the courthouse was a Senate project and the House knew nothing about the architectural plans. He said it was part of the last-minute House and Senate give and take.

Rubio's appropriations chairman, former Rep. Ray Sansom, remembers it differently.

In a recent interview, Sansom said $7.9 million included in the 2007-08 budget for courthouse "expansion'' was a Rubio priority. He said Rubio confirmed his support for the project several times between November 2006 and the end of the 2007 session.

He said 1st DCA Chief Judge Paul Hawkes frequently visited Sansom's office to remind him the project was a priority of the speaker's. As was Sansom's practice whenever someone said he had the speaker's backing, Sansom said he went to Rubio to make sure.

"I asked, and Speaker Rubio said yes, it was a priority and important to FSU to get a new building too,'' Sansom said, adding that nobody from the Senate contacted him about wanting money for the courthouse.


Uh-oh, Rubio. Your former hand-picked budget chief Ray Sansom is acting like you might just be lying about how this whole thing went down. He was there, and he just might know the score to drop the dime on you.

By tradition, several legislators said, in the final two days of session, the House speaker personally approves any amendment attached to an important House bill.

That would be you, Mr. Rubio.

In an unrelated case, Sansom has been criminally charged with grand theft in connection with a $6 million appropriation in the 2007 budget for a friend's airplane hangar. He has denied wrongdoing, and his trial scheduled for January.

All of this was going on at the same time, under Rubio's watchful eye. Now, this begs the question: When will Rubio have his day in front of the Grand Jury?

Back to the "heroes" of the stealth legislative funding for this mahogany-lined, granite-laced, private-quartered palace, in the face of severe and ongoing state budget cuts:

The "especially helpful" list names House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Miami, Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, and Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Sarasota.

Sen. Victor Crist is currently running for the Hillsborough County Commission.

The other "heroes" on the list are:

(Then) Senate President Ken Pruitt, currently running for St. Lucie County property appraiser

Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami

Future House Speaker Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel

Incoming House Speaker Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park

Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales

Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland

Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp

It's pathetic to see these people denying culpability like hot potatoes, as described in this Times article.

This could finally bring this corrupt, decade-and-a-half Republican stranglehold over Florida state government to a bloody end.

UPDATE, 4:56 PM. September 22, 2010

Lucy Morgan at the St. Petersburg Times reports:

Grand jury to look at 1st DCA courthouse funding

A grand jury in Leon County will hear a complaint next week about the controversial new courthouse being built in Tallahassee for the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Leon State Attorney Willie Meggs said Wednesday he has received a complaint from a citizen who wants a grand jury to review the situation surrounding the courthouse.

Meggs said he will bring the case to the grand jury when it meets Sept. 29.

The new $48 million courthouse is being financed primarily with a $33.5 million bond issue that legislators authorized by an amendment slipped into a lengthy transportation bill the last day of the 2007 legislative session.

The courthouse project was pushed by 1st DCA Chief Judge Paul M. Hawkes and Judge Brad Thomas, both former legislative staffers familiar with the budgeting process. Neither of them returned messages Wednesday seeking comment.


Beyond returning indictments that charge crimes, Florida grand juries frequently review the actions of public officials and public agencies and can issue a report called a presentment.

Such reports are often critical of public officials or entities and sometimes lead to changes in how a government agency does business.

Two years ago a complaint sent to Meggs about former Rep. Ray Sansom prompted a grand jury not only to indict Sansom but to issue a s scathing report of how the Legislature handled the 2007 budget. The report criticized a system that lets a handful of powerful lawmakers make multimillion-dollar decisions in secret.

It was in that same 2007 legislative session that the $33.5 million bond issue for the courthouse passed the Legislature as an amendment to a transportation bill.

Mr. Rubio, the days remaining in your rather self-serving political career have just become numbered.

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