State Attorney Willie Meggs is forwarding a citizen’s complaint about the palatial new 1st District Court of Appeals building to a grand jury for review during their Sept. 29 meeting, where the panel will decide whether to launch an investigation into the $48 million project, known as Tallahassee’s “Taj Mahal.”
In related news, GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio is among a number of House members, senators, and lobbyists to make “the heroes list,” an internal e-mail obtained by the St. Petersburg Times that was circulated by the building committee of the 1st District Court of Appeal in April 2008 identifying those individuals who’d been particularly effective in delivering funding. At the top of the list is a section for those deemed “especially helpful,” which included former House speaker Rubio as well as Sen. Victor Crist and Reps. Marti Coley and Ron Reagan.
“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.”
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 then 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.
Funding was buried in a 2007 transportation bill that was approved at the last minute. A number of those who made the so called “heroes” list are distancing themselves from the contentious building, with some pointing their fingers at Rubio.
In a recent interview, Rubio’s former appropriations chairman Ray 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 Rubio’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.
Sansom said he did not know about a last-minute amendment authorizing a $35 million bond issue that was attached to a major House transportation bill until he read about it in the Times last month.
See the full list of “heroes” here.