Former House Speaker Ray Sansom’s bid to force the state to pay his legal fees from an aborted criminal case will go to trial next year. A judge has set a trial date of Feb. 26, less than a week before the 2015 legislative session is scheduled to begin.
Sansom, R-Destin, says the state should foot his $817,518.73 legal bill, plus interest, under a common-law principle that any public official who successfully defends himself or herself against charges related to public duties is entitled to have legal costs covered. The state argues that the manner in which prosecutor Willie Meggs decided to drop the case, concerning a 2007 budget item that was supposed to pay for an emergency operations center in Sansom’s district, essentially amounts to a settlement rather than a successful defense.
Meggs argued at trial that the appropriation for an emergency operations center was really a thinly disguised effort to build a taxpayer-funded airplane hangar for Panhandle developer Jay Odom, but the prosecutor gave up after a procedural ruling that he said made it difficult to proceed with the case.
Sansom has always maintained his innocence.
Source: The News Service of Florida