Florida Might Eliminate Its 'Most Corrupt Town'

Hampton has more than its fair share of problems, per a recent audit
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2014 6:03 AM CDT
Updated Mar 10, 2014 6:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – The small town of Hampton, Fla., has caught the attention of state lawmakers—who want to see it dissolved. That's because it's wildly corrupt, per a 42-page state audit of its books released last month, which CNN reports "reads like a primer on municipal malfeasance." The town of 477 people about 20 miles north of the Gainesville essentially functioned as a glorified speed trap, with 17 officers (roughly one per every 25 residents) known for sitting on lawn chairs or taking cover behind recycling bins along a 1,260-foot stretch of well-traveled highway US 301 armed with radar guns. That's not illegal—though AAA has gone so far as to put up billboards warning about it—but from there, things have allegedly taken a turn for the criminal.

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CNN reports that on Friday, state and Bradford County investigators descended on city hall as part of a criminal investigation, taking the door to the police chief's office off its hinges in the process. This after the audit revealed 31 law violations. Hampton didn't pay bills on time, or withhold employee payroll taxes. It allegedly made thousands in dubious expenditures and kept cash from water customers in a bag intermingled with petty cash. Some of its records were "lost in a swamp," auditors were told, per Time. And it's unclear where all the ticket money—$616,960 between 2010 and 2012, until pressure forced the town to pack up its speed trap—went. The Florida Times-Union reports that the town has about three weeks to prove it's making progress on turning things around; otherwise, the legislature will very likely dissolve Hampton, which would then become part of unincorporated Bradford County. The town's acting mayor thinks its possible to save the town; she took over for the former mayor, who is in jail after allegedly dealing oxycodone. (In other Florida news, this may be the dumbest thing ever said during a DUI stop.)

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