Saturday, January 31, 2009

Witness for the Prosecution

Ray Samson has said in a written statement that his "ongoing legal proceedings have temporarily created an inability for me to carry out my responsibilities as Speaker." What, then, are we to conclude about Bob Richburg, president of the Okaloosa-Walton Community College ... Oh, so sorry; we mean... Northwest Florida State College?

As Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel observes, the known -- indeed, the undisputed facts -- are that Sansom--
1) helped funnel millions of dollars to a small college; and
2) The college then offered him a $110,000-a-year paycheck.
And that doesn't even allude to the mysterious $6 million college airplane hangar and the top-secret "legislative briefing" that wasn't. Nevertheless, Maxwell says, "That's why he had to give up his speakership -- and why he needs to give up any delusions of returning to the post."

Richburg is a state employee, too. While an academic may not be as politically powerful as a Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, a state-paid college president is in charge of molding a lot of young minds and educating them to become better informed citizens of Florida.

No one else is asking, so we will: How easily can Richburg faithfully discharge his public duties when, as it appears, he was so deeply enmeshed on the other side of the same questionable transactions that have driven Sansom from the Speaker's chair?

If, as we know, a grand jury is investigating Sansom, isn't it inescapable that Richburg also must be facing possible criminal indictment? After all, it takes two to dance the bribery tango.

Richburg has a dilemma nearly identical to Sansom's. Both men are in charge of guiding important state institutions through parlous economic times. Both hold public positions that impose a high duty of loyalty to the public good.

The only difference is one of scale. Sansom as Speaker was expected to provide ethical and policy guidance to 119 other state representatives. Richburg to thousands of the next generation of Florida citizenry.

If Sansom can be compelledto give up the Speaker's job, shouldn't Richburg? Unless, of course, he's hoping for some sort of deal to save his own skin. For example, by becoming a witness for the prosecution.

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