The comment “You can’t fight Town Hall” is absolutely a correct statement.
Two year ago, complaints were made against four individuals; two of which were employees of the Town and two of which were officials. Even though the Town of White Springs has specific ordinances and the Town Charter, apparently even if one states that those laws , rules or regulations apply in writing, the Town itself can make exceptions. If an exception is made, or stipulated that it was made, even on hearsay evidence under ethics laws, then that which is in writing does not apply and the respondents would not be found with probable cause. This hearing transpired January 24, 2020.
In one case the employee advised the inspector for the Commission on Ethics that exceptions to paying the $300 Water Sewer Deposits are made frequently to new buyers, who previously rented the residence. This is not what is stated in the written ordinance, nor have there been that many buyers for which the sellers transferred water rights. Yet the individual was exonerated from any probable cause.
Other complaints were waived as not having probable cause even though it was obvious the respondents lied to the inspector. However it is obvious that a citizen’s complaint is not recognized if an official makes another statement. Therefore, one has to question why follow any Charter or ordinances. The Town obviously can do what they want. If we the citizens would have done what these individuals had done, there would be no exception for us and the Commission would have definitely found probable cause. In fact one of the officials was found to have probable cause but the individual she hurt said he didn’t care.
Even the State’s Attorney chose three years ago, to just ignore a violation of the Sunshine Law of one of the employees and admitted it in court with no explanation except to protect the Town of White Springs.
But what is really perplexing relates to the Local Option Fuel Tax (LOFT). The Town of White Springs, in 2016 was given a rate increase of 6.58% of the funds allocated to Hamilton County for LOFT. For instance the estimate ending September 2017 was $215,490; September 30, 2018 was $225,450 and the estimate for 2019 is $210,736 per figures on the internet. In 2016, the Town received $118,653.
Although Jennings and Jasper kept their money in a restricted fund in accordance with the Statute, White Springs Did not. The money until Helen Miller became Mayor and our Town Attorney Meagan Logan verified the research of Title XXVI Public Transportation, Chapter 336 County Road System, Section 025, was spent on various items including payroll, equipment and attorney fees, but not Transportation. Obviously one notes that our roadways in White Springs are in dire shape including Bridge Street going to Town Hall.
In fact the prior Town attorney wrote an inquiry to the Attorney General’s Office implicating the fact that money was spent on payroll equipment etc. and asked whether that was alright to do. A letter from the Attorney General stated why would it be questioned, when obviously the money was spent. The money of course was to have been spent for Transportation purposes as defined in the statute.
Our Town Manager at the time stated she had listened to two attorneys, one of which was our prior Mayor and of course our CPA.
The hypocrisy of this situation is that as citizens we were asked to contact various agencies of the State of Florida by the Local Florida Department of Transportation. (FDOT) or make a suit against the Town and its officials. That is the usual answer. FDOT, at the time, was extremely upset that the Town of White Springs was not spending their money on “Transportation” as defined. So for months different agencies were called, some of which the FDOT referred us to and although all said the money had to be returned for its intended purpose, the then Mayor, the CPA and the Attorney stated we were wrong when it was brought before the council, no one readily objected except for Helen Miller. In the meantime, finally, the Department of Revenue stated the only way the matter would be handled is if we went directly to the Media or the FBI. We did not contact the media but the FBI would not respond because it involved State Business.
So our next step was to attend a meeting with our local congressman (R) and Senator (D) at a meeting in Jasper. Of course, after my speech, a promise was made to get back to me. I tried various times to contact the Senator and found out from his aide that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee would be provided my information. The Senator headed the committee.
Next we receive an e-mail from the Senator’s Aide stipulating that how the Town of White Springs was handling their money was “legal”. We do not know if this statement was made because the Senator was lied to or whether it was because of political reasons. Of course, I wrote not only to the Senator but our local congressman with a rebuttal of facts but have been ignored to date and all of this started in October of 2018.
Such being the case, it is understood from the months of dilemmas in finding someone who would assist us by writing even the simplest of letters asking the Town to cease and desist their spending would not happen. Instead we were told to secure an attorney to interpret the law, or take a lawsuit against the Town of White Springs.
Now even though the FDOT locally was upset that White Springs did not comply with the statute, FDOT recently awarded White Springs with not only the initial award but provided additional money to meet the lowest contractor’s pricing for the Kendrick Street Project. I find this extremely interesting in light of all the prior conversations, but it only shows neither the state nor any agency of the State will go against their municipalities. They will only go after citizens who violate statutes. Furthermore, the FBI nor any federal agency will go against the State or a State Agency. It happened in Hampton, but perhaps they do not have people in office who can fabricate that everything White Springs does is legal.
Don’t ever try fighting Town Hall. You will lose big time.!