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Sam Rashid resigns from the Hillsborough Aviation Authority

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Sam Rashid tendered his resignation from the Hillsborough Aviation Authority on Friday.

In a letter addressed to Governor Rick Scott on Friday, the Eastern Hillsborough County GOP activist thanked Scott for appointing him to the board back in June of 2014, specifically for appointing him as the very first minority on the Aviation Authority (although that isn’t accurate, as Arthenia Joyner was actually the first minority named to the board back in 1991).

And he referred to the late Steve Burton, a fellow Hillsborough County Republican whose strong advocacy for international flights led to the appointment of TIA CEO Joe Lopano back in late 2010.

But nowhere in his missive to the governor was any reference to why he was departing.

Five weeks ago, Rashid became the focus of intense media attention for posting a message on his Facebook page regarding Tampa public relations consultant Beth Leytham, specifically regarding her position with the Hillsborough County transportation tax proposal called Go Hillsborough.

“Well done commissioners,” Rashid wrote in his post, “you’ve given this taxpayer subsidized slut (and I may be talking about the Go Hillsborough plan with this pejorative reference) another $300,000 of my money to intentionally deceive me into thinking (Los Angeles) is Tampa.”

The “subsidized slut” reference was pounced on by the media.

Rashid also wrote that Leytham had made “several million dollars” as as an “unregistered lobbyist by having an intimately close relationship with three of our local elected officials.” In fact, she has made $187,500 for helping to facilitate public meetings and the Go Hillsborough website.

As the uproar continued, Rashid indicated on his Facebook page on September 5 that he would resign if Governor Scott, who appointed him to the board, would ask him to step down.

Scott did exactly that on September 15.

“Governor Scott expects him to resign and would accept his resignation,” spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

But somewhat provocatively, Rashid did not step down.

Until he did, some 24 days later.

Rashid and other critics of the proposed transportation tax had complained about Leytham’s involvement for over a year after she was hired as a subcontractor for Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering consultant hired by the county to lead the transportation plan. That plan was always geared toward placing a sales tax referendum going on the ballot in 2016, the first such attempt since a one-cent sales tax proposal was soundly defeated by Hillsborough County voters in 2010.

It’s also vehemently opposed by critics, whose opposition has helped torpedo not only the 2010 effort in Hillsborough, but the Greenlight Pinellas proposal in Pinellas County in 2014.

And those same critics reveled after reporter WTSP television reporter Noah Pransky aired an in-depth story regarding Leytham’s influence with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioners Sandy Murman and Ken Hagan. The story also questioned her influence on the Go Hillsborough plan.

In response to the furor over Pransky’s story, the Hillsborough County Commission called for an independent investigation of some of the allegations in his story. But after County Administrator Mike Merrill called on Sheriff David Gee to do that investigation, Rashid protested, writing a letter to County Chair Sandy Murman that Gee didn’t believe Gee’s office was “qualified or capable” of rooting out “graft, public corruption or sunshine violations,” in the Go Hillsborough program, and called on either the FLDE or the Pinellas/Pasco State Attorney to conduct the investigation.

That was apparently too rich for Leytham, who then felt compelled to write to Governor Scott, questioning why he had not acted yet as Rashid continued to flaunt the governor’s earlier statement that he should step down.

“Governor, I am told that you strongly believe that men that denigrate women should not be placed nor allowed to remain in positions that may further any type of sexism,” she wrote Scott on October 1, last Thursday. “Of course, I feel assaulted by Mr. Rashid yet again. But I am also concerned about the other women at the Aviation Authority who may be targeted or harmed by Mr. Rashid’s misogyny.   Please, on behalf of myself and those women who may be negatively impacted by him, remove Mr. Rashid from the Aviation Authority.”

When asked for comment on Friday night, Leytham sent a one sentence email to SaintPetersBlog.

“This is absolutely welcome news for me.  But I also think it is a victory for all of the women in community that the Governor finally sent a message that this type of behavior is not tolerable.”

Rashid’s website, for the first time in recent memory, was inaccessible to this reporter.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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