TALLAHASSEE -- Ray Sansom resigned from the Florida House of Representatives on Sunday night, a dramatic decision on the eve before his colleagues were to begin an ethics trial over his dealings with a Panhandle college.
The decision, rendered in a letter hand-delivered by Sansom's attorney to the Capitol shortly before 8 p.m., ends a legislative career that once put Sansom at the apex of Florida politics but unraveled in scandal as he took a job at Northwest Florida State College on the same day in November 2008 that he was sworn in as House speaker.
Sansom, R-Destin, did not acknowledge wrongdoing in his letter, but said he was stepping down out of love for the chamber.
``Let me state that this shall not be received as an admission of any wrongdoing,'' he wrote. ``On the contrary, I have steadfastly maintained that I am innocent of any wrongdoing and I will never relent from that position.''
``This is a resolution that's in the best interest of everyone involved. He's no longer a member of the Florida House,'' said Rep. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who chaired the disciplinary panel.
``We are his colleagues and that makes it heart wrenching,'' Galvano said.
Sansom, R-Destin, had steadfastly insisted he acted properly despite ample signs showing he used his power as House budget writer in 2007 and 2008 to funnel tens of millions in taxpayer money to the small college, including $6 million for an airport building that a private developer had wanted to use for his corporate jet business.
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