White Springs Mayor and former council member Spencer Lofton misused his public position when he violated:
FS 112.313 Standards of conduct for public officers, employees of agencies and local government attorneys.
FS 166.24 Fiscal years, budgets and budget amendments,
FS 336.025 County Transportation system; levy of local option fuel tax on motor fuel and diesel fuel.
Section 6.09 White Springs Town Charter, Administration of the Budget
In order to secure a special benefit and exemption for himself and others, including Councilman and Former Mayor Rhett Bullard, Vice Mayor Tonja Brown, and former Councilman Willie Jefferson, Town Clerk/Finance Director Pam Tomlinson and the town’s auditor Kenneth M. Daniels, CPA. Mayor Lofton’s refusal to permit a discussion of #18-02 and authorizing a payment of $13,879 for legal services incurred in the previous fiscal year is in violation of both state law and the municipal charter are illegal actions, and as such are good cause for removal from his position as Town Mayor, and further make him personally liable to the Town in the amount of $13,879. Mayor Lofton’s misuse of public office included efforts to secure a special privilege and exemption for himself to preclude public disclosure of Stacy Tebo’s illegal efforts to secure a special privilege and exemption for herself to preclude public disclosure of her illegal acts, which could lead to both his termination and her termination and the requirement that Mayor Lofton reimburse the $13,879 to the Town.
- At the February 13, 2018 Council Meeting, Town Manager Stacy Tebo recommended that the Town Council approve “Resolution #18-02 – Amending the Budget for FY 2016/2017”. Tebo states that “(T)he legal services budget was exceeded by $13,879 (in FY 2016/2017). Expenditures were increased from $15,000 to $28,879. Expenditures wee reduced in Roads & Streets Machinery and Equipment by $13,879 (in FY 2016/2017).”
The February 13, 2018 Council meeting took place 136 days following the end of the 2016/2017 fiscal year, far exceeding Florida Statute 166.241 Fiscal years, budgets and budget amendments (4) The government body of each municipality at any time within a fiscal year or within 60 days following the end of the fiscal year may amend a budget for that year as follows: (a) Appropriations for expenditures within a fund may be decreased or increased by motion, recorded in the minutes, if the total appropriations of the fund is not changed.
- Minutes of the February 13, 2018 Council Meeting report that the “Motion to adopt Resolution 18-02 (was made) by Councilman Willie Jefferson and seconded by Vice Mayor Tonja Brown”. Also voting for the motion were Mayor Rhett Bullard and Councilman Spencer Lofton. Councilman Walter McKenzie voted against the motion. It was carried by a 4/1 vote. Discussion of the motion included Councilman McKenzie’s concern that it was illegal to use local option fuel tax moneys, which were the revenue source for Roads & Streets Machinery and Equipment, for legal services that were in no way related to any municipal transportation project. FS 336.025.2 clearly states “County and Municipal governments shall utilize moneys received pursuant to this paragraph only for transportation expenditures”
(The February 13, 2018 Agenda, Resolution #18-02, and the Minutes are included as Attachment 1)
As a consequence, Tebo and the four (4) council members who voted for Resolution #18-02 violated FS 166.241 and FS 336.025.
- At the May 8, 2018 Council Meeting, Ken Daniels CPA, theTown Auditor, presented the Audit for Fiscal Year Ending 9/30/2017. On Page 37 of the Audit, in the section identified as Note 1, Budget, Mr. Daniels reports, “The Town did not amend its budget post year end”.
Yet, in his verbal presentation, Mr. Daniels urged the Town Council to rescind “Resolution #18-02 – Amending the Budget for FY 2016/2017”, pointing out that Resolution #18-02 was passed much too late (136 days) to be considered in compliance with the state statute (within 60 days). In his Management Letter, a key element of the Audit, Mr. Daniels makes no mention of Tebo’s and Council’s efforts to amend the 2016/2017 budget post year end in the section on Current Year Findings, clearly anticipating that the Council would follow his admonition and rescind #18-02 (See Attachment 2)
Mr. Daniels’ statement in the Audit that “(T)he Town did not amend its budget post year end”, is false and misleading, and calls into question whether he has a “personal interest, direct or indirect, in the fiscal affairs of the Town”, and whether those personal interests have influenced his professional judgment. Mr. Daniels’ provocative behavior calls into question the rest of the Audit, and if additional findings are being covered-up.
- The Agenda for the June 12, 2018 Council Meeting included the item “Rescind Resolution #18-02 Amending the 2016/2017 Budget” as part of the Consent Docket. All items on the Consent Docket are considered by one motion unless removed from the Consent Docket by a member of the City Council. (See Attachment 3.)
Councilmember Helen Miller requested that rescinding #18-02 be removed from the Consent Docket so that a discussion of the item could be conducted by the Town Council. After some discussion #18-02 was removed from the Consent Docket, but Mayor Lofton refused to permit discussion of #18-02, as a stand-alone agenda item. Mayor Lofton removed “Rescind Resolution #18-02 Amending the 2016/2017 Budget” from the agenda. As of July 5, 2018 “Resolution #18-02, Amending the 2016/2017 Budget” from the agenda has not been rescinded.
- Section 6.09 Administration of the Budget of the White Springs Town Charter, under (b) Payments and obligations (page 23), states:
- Sufficiency of Funds. No payment shall be made or obligations incurred unless sufficient funds are or will be available to cover the obligations when it becomes due.
- Violations; Authorization of payment or incurring of an obligation in violation of this subsection, or any payment so made, is illegal. Such actions shall be good cause for removal of any official who knowingly authorized or made payment or incurred such an obligation and that official shall be personally liable to the Town for any amount so paid.
- Out of Fiscal Period Payments. Contracts or leases providing for payment beyond the end of the fiscal year must be approved by motion, resolution or ordinance passed by the Town Council.
Tebo’s Resolution #18-02 Amending the 2016/2017 Budget – increasing legal services by $13,879 and reducing Roads & Streets Machinery and Equipment by $13,879 – is evidence Stacy Tebo violated Section 6.09 of the Town Charter since she incurred legal services obligations without sufficient funds to cover the obligations when the $13,879 became due during FY 2016/2017. The fact that Tebo used Roads and Street funds to cover her short-fall in legal services is evidence of further official misconduct wherein she misused local option fuel tax revenue restricted to transportation expenditures in violation of state law. Tebo’s efforts to create a misleading narrative of her actions are a futile attempt to avoid the legal consequences of her misconduct. The Town Charter clearly states “Authorization of payment or incurring of an obligation in violation of this subsection, or any payment so made, is illegal. Such actions shall be good cause for removal of any official who knowingly authorized or made payment or incurred such an obligation and that official shall be personally liable to the Town for any amount so paid.”
As a consequence, Tebo’s actions are good cause for her removal from the position of Town Manager and she is personally liable to the Town for the $13,879 paid to her friend and attorney for legal services. Payment of the $13,879 for legal services could not have been made without the cooperation of the Town Clerk/Finance Director Pam Tomlinson, who prepares each and every transaction for payment by the Town. As a consequence, Tomlinson’s actions are good cause for her removal from the positions of Town Clerk/Finance Director, and she is also personally liable to the Town for the $13,879 paid for legal services.
Town Council Members who voted to authorize payment of the $13,879 for legal services incurred in the previous fiscal year 2016/2017, in violation of Section 6.09 (b) (1) and (2) and in violation of FS 166.241 and FS 336.025 (1)(a 2, are also personally liable to the Town for $13,879, and they also face good cause for removal from their elected offices. These elected officials include Council Member and former Mayor Rhett Bullard, Vice Mayor Tonja Brown, Former Council Member Willie Jefferson, Council Member and current Mayor Spencer Lofton.
The unethical behavior of Town Manager Stacy Tebo, authorized and encouraged by Former Mayor/Council Member Rhett Bullard with the blind obedience being displayed by Vice Mayor Brown and current Mayor Lofton has positioned White Springs in a tenuous legal position. These examples of misuse of public office contained in this ethics complaint are simply one set of ethical violations perpetrated by the previous and current municipal administrations. The Town of White Springs is in desperate need of an objective financial and management audit of current operations as well as those undertaken in FY 2016/2017.
Thank you for your consideration of this complaint.
Joe E. Griffin