St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

From secret mail, some sunshine creeps out


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000

I love anonymous mail.

Oh, sometimes it comes from crackpots and can't be believed, but other times it can be a gold mine that tells us how our political system really works.

Take one recent letter. Don't know who wrote it, but it was probably from a doctor. He or she wanted me to know about a few internal things going on at the Florida Medical Association, where former Secretary of State Sandy Mortham is running things.

The letter writer was kind enough to include an internal memo sent out July 10 to the FMA finance committee by Mortham and general counsel John M. Knight.

It urges the FMA's finance committee to hire state Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, to manage the FMA's investment portfolio.

"As you know Mike Fasano will serve as the majority leader in the House of Representatives during the 2001 Legislative session," the memo notes. "He may also serve as the Council Chair of the Council that oversees the various health care committees of the House of Representatives."

Describing Fasano as "a very good friend of the FMA," the memo notes that he has been "crucial in defeating legislation adverse to the interests of organized medicine."

"While we do not feel that a decision to recommend a company other than Morgan Stanley Dean Witter will have any adverse consequences to the FMA during the forthcoming session, we do feel that a decision to recommend Morgan Stanley Dean Witter may certainly further enhance our relationship with Representative Fasano, and thus, may prove beneficial to the FMA next session," the memo concluded.

A call to Mortham inquired as to whether the FMA has hired Fasano.

"No," she answered.

Are you considering hiring him?

"They may be," she responded tersely.

There would be no reason to hire him unless his company could produce a competitive product, she insisted.

Asked if she could see any potential for a conflict of interest, the response was quick.

"You don't think any businesses are hiring legislators?" she asked. "Legislators have outside careers."

Ah, yes, and Fasano works for a brokerage in Port Richey. Surely every Tallahassee business hires Port Richey brokers to handle their investments.

This is one of the problems we have with a part-time Legislature. We pay legislators $27,900 a year and expect them to make a living doing something else. Unfortunately many of them -- legally -- make that living from businesses that need legislative favors.

Fasano says he was unaware of the memo and believed his firm was not going to get the job. He said someone at the FMA solicited him to make the presentation.

His firm did make an appearance before the FMA finance committee earlier this month, "but I don't believe we gave the best presentation," he added.

"I was pretty much told that another group came in and was able to service their account with a lesser management fee," Fasano said.

And, no, he wouldn't hold it against the FMA.

"They are a great organization," he added.

After hearing of the memo, Fasano called Mortham and learned that no decision has been made. He says he asked that his firm be removed from consideration.

"The memo was not appropriate," Fasano said. "It made it look political."

The understatement of the year!

Politics works in mysterious ways. Sometimes a little sunshine actually causes people to do the right thing.

And if you are in possession of something I should see, the address is Suite 105, 336 E College Ave., Tallahassee, FL 32301. E-mail is received at

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.