The tiny 500-resident suburb of Hampton, Fla., may become an anecdote of the past if Sunshine State lawmakers have their way. Notorious for its speed-trap collections, misuse of public funds and shameful record keeping, the state’s Auditor General’s Office just released a scathing 28-page report detailing gross mismanagement and abuse of public funds, according to the Daily Mail.
“It’s like something out of a Southern Gothic novel,” state Sen. Rob Bradley told Time magazine. “This town exists apparently just to write speeding tickets. Most people don’t understand why it exists in the first place.”
The audit revealed that between 2010 and 2012, the town collected $616,960 in fines, to support 20 well-funded, well-equipped, SUV-driving policemen and allow City Hall officials to run up a $132,000 bill at the adjacent BP convenience store.
“Do y’all remember the old Dukes of Hazzard? Boss Hogg? They make Boss Hogg look like a Sunday school teacher,” Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith told CNN.
Instead of “serve and protect,” the town became “serve and collect,” Smith said, describing Hampton operations as “cash-register justice.” The town even extended its boundaries 420 yards down Highway 301, where police officers sat in lawn chairs with radar guns to fine anyone exceeding the speed limit.
Established 89 years ago to supply water to the area and maintain a small police department, the state’s report alleges Hampton mysteriously lost water-meter records “in the swamp,” failed to bill and collect water revenues, engaged in nepotism and even neglected to insure some of its own police cars. The last mayor, Barry Layne Moore, now resides in jail, unable to post bond after selling oxycodone to an undercover agent.
The town’s remaining employees all resigned last week, according to the Gainesville Sun, and members of Florida’s Joint Legislative Auditing Committee have called for withholding state funds, opening a criminal investigation and, more than likely, dissolving the city.
Auditors fear that more than $1 million may have gone to lining corrupt officials’ pockets over the years, all the more reason to remove the town from the Florida map, Bradley said.
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