CNN has labeled Hampton, Fla., possibly “the most corrupt town in America.” Now, if it doesn’t clean up its act, Governor Rick Scott is threatening to revoke its city charter.
The city’s problems were revealed in a recent state audit, which found 31 violations of the city charter, state law, and federal tax regulations:
Mayor Barry Lyndon Moore was arrested for selling a 30-milligram pill of OxyContin to an undercover sheriff’s informant a few weeks after he was elected. He’s been suspended from office, and remains in jail while he tries to raise $4,500 to pay for his bond.
City employees charged $132,000 to an account at the BP station next door to City Hall, and the city clerk, in charge of such affairs, has resigned after apparently receiving $8,258 in improper salary payments. She did not have formal accounting experience.
Hampton’s city charter says the city government exists to provide water and police protection to its citizens, who number less than 500. But Hampton’s water system leaks 46 percent of its water, and the city’s police officers are largely concerned with enforcing a highly lucrative speed trap. The town is known for the trap, on US 301, where officers aim their radar guns as they sit in lawn chairs or hide behind recycling bins along the 1,260 feet of highway the municipality controls. The police force produced $617,000 in ticket money between 2010 and 2012. The police chief and water-utility operator have resigned.
Gordon Smith, the sheriff of the county containing Hampton, summarized the city’s work thus: “It became ’serve and collect’ instead of ’serve and protect.’ Cash-register justice.”
The state audit is available to read online. On inspection of the evidence, the city’s prospects “don’t look good,” watchdog organization Integrity Florida said.