Number two man in Florida House lives outside of his district | News
PORT RICHEY, Florida -- It's one those Florida laws that makes perfect sense: requiring an elected official live in the district he represents. So why does the number two man in the state legislature appear to be going around the law?
Call it "a tale of two houses."
"We have two homes that we have to maintain and pay," says Representative and Speaker pro Tempore John Legg. One home is owned by his wife in the Trinity area of New Port Richey, which is outside of his district. The other house is owned by Legg and is in Port Richey, which is in his district.
Mike Deeson: The law says you've got to be a permanent resident to represent the district.
Rep. John Legg: Absolutely.
Deeson: You're not a permanent resident.
Legg: That's completely inaccurate. I am a permanent resident of West Pasco House District 46 and I have been since I got elected.
The 10 News Investigators conducted surveillance over several weeks at both of Legg's homes. We never found him at the house in his district and always at the home of his wife in Trinity. Legg says they have lived there since they got married more than five years ago.
Legg: Some months we are at the Trinity house. I'm not going to say that we are never at the Trinity house. That's completely inaccurate. It is my permanent residence that we use.
Deeson: How do you define permanent residence? My definition of permanent is that you are there all the time...is that it is not temporary. You're there all the time.
Legg: Permanent residence is where you have it as your permanent residence.
But if someone and their family is a permanent resident, you would expect they would use water at their permanent house. The 10 News Investigators acquired the 2011 water bills for the house Legg says is his permanent residence. We found several months where there was no water usage billed. Legg explained that there was a leak and the water company may have given them a credit, but that still doesn't account for zero usage.
We talked with folks in the neighborhood and they say there is no question that State Representative John Legg owns the home and there is no question he doesn't live there. In fact, they say several people have rented the home over the past several years, which again Legg claims is his permanent residence.
"About four years ago, when we first got married, we rented it out during the session. We put both homes up for sale because we didn't know what we were going to do," says Legg.
Despite public records showing he had the house up for rent in 2007 and 2008, he doesn't deny there was a period he couldn't be a permanent resident.
Deeson: So there were people there other than you?
Legg: For a brief time during the session.
"I think it is less clear whether there is a legal problem rather than an ethical problem. I think most people would be uncomfortable that a nominal residence that defines someone's status as a representative or an elector," says former Tampa City Council Member and University of Tampa Professor Scott Paine.
Paine says issues like this give politicians a bad name and voters we talked to agree.
"Basically, that's just a hotel for him. That's how I feel about it. If you're going to be a politician for this district, you need to live here," says James Rubin in front of the Pasco County courthouse.
"I would say there's probably enough room to wiggle out of it if one wants to and that's what politics is all about. However, as a citizen, I would appreciate it if they would follow the law to the letter," says Pasco County resident Valerie Scott.
Deeson: And to the guy who says, "I live in Pasco County and I want a representative that lives here 24/7 except during session" what would you say?
Legg: I'm your guy. I'm your guy.
Deeson: But you don't live in the district 24/7.
Legg: Yes, I do. As much as we can.
Legg may have his heart and soul permanently in his house district, but unfortunately his body is not.