At the September 15th Budget Hearing many items were discussed. One of the major items related to the $16,000 in Sewer Tax which was eliminated and so initially Michael Whitehead added the amount in the Ad Valorem Taxes which is paid for by 16% of the citizens who own homes worth more than $25,000. As a result our Town Manager consultant Tommie Jones said that the Ad Valorem Tax of 6,00 should remain. Mayor Helen Miller was adamant that not only should the current rate of 4.39030 be reduced but that we should have a rate of 4.203 for 2020-2021 and it was voted upon by a quorum of three; Miller, Rivers and Nicole Williams.
What I don’t understand is why we even had to include the $16,000 loss in the budget; not only should it not have existed, but are we going to have to add in this deficit every year? It makes no sense. Just take the budget as it is. As a result, to have more money to finally give Curtis Johnson his well deserved raise when he has done so much for the Town in the last 10 years (but also raises have to be given to Vaughn and Frye because of class situation), the Town decided to take in more salvage.
The $60,000 Excavator and Trailer which was purchased from LOFT fund money during Rhett Bullard’s term as mayor will be sold and Tommie Jones is responsible for securing the sale of this item. Furthermore it sounded like the Backhoe will also be sold. The Backhoe is paid for and from Mr. Jone’s comments it looks like we still owe $16,000 on the excavator and trailer.
Now the Town of White Springs has never been transparent and that has been Joe’s problem with the Town. But until Helen Miller was elected as mayor the first time, our Town has continually been going into a deficit position. When McKire was mayor and Townsend was the manager, we ran with an $800,000 budget. We had enough to pay everyone and even managed to pay up the Sewer Plant which was built. Yes we had an IRS problem of $100,000 in 1995 but when the State of FL worked with us, we managed to handle that without hurting the citizens. It was when Miller came into power that so many problems started transpiring and when Rhett Bullard wanted to compete on her level, the problems persisted and now we are going broke having to use funds we should not be using.
Let’s go back to the Miller accomplishments which have caused the financial downfall of White springs.
• The first thing was her attempt to secure life insurance policies on each of the citizens so that the Town would receive money when the citizen would die. Joe placed a stop on it because it was illegal because the Town had no insurable interest on the lives of the Citizens of the Town.
• Then the Sewer rates increased 25% more than any town in the area. Nothing, like sticking it to the less fortunate, the older people with limited income and on families. But we accepted the fact that the money would accumulate and be retained by the Town so that we would be able to rehabilitate our Sewer system. Yet that did not happen even though Miller said the increase provided the $250,000 necessary for our contribution for the loan. Instead she had Mr. Farley asked the HCDA for the money and he failed, getting $25,000 from the HCDA a year later.
• Because fast money was required as collateral for the loan, which wasn’t used for the loan anyway because the Town could not live within its means of the General fund, under Mayor Miller money started being taken from the Sewer and Water Fund for use in the General Fund and her vice mayor, Walter McKenzie agreed with everything she did.
• Mayor Miller spent in excess of $25,000 on a study by UF of the architecture of the Carver School without council approval; but it was noted that she applied for a job at UF with possibly the most honest of the three resumes in existence but did not get the job.
• Then councilman Rev. Richard Marshall brought up in a meeting that Miller had used for her personal pet projects (which did not assist the people of White Springs) money not approved by the council. As a result she attacked Rev. Marshall and took out the HOPE program food Pantry and caused further problems by contacting the food source stating wrongly that Rev. Marshall and the blog advertised where the food was received from.
• Since we did not have a 501 (c) 3, Helen Miller promised Catholic Charities would bring food to White Springs but all of the food charities including those by counties are for a period of six months as emergency food until one is able to acquire food stamps. Needless to say since Catholic Charities could not provide food on a continual basis, the Churches of White Springs stepped in for the void.
• Before Kevin Pittman was hired, we did not have a fire department and Mayor Miller ignored our complaints that we had insufficient volunteers in order to comply with the ISO and as a results our insurance rates may go up.
• The Special Events Committee which made money when Tom Moore was in charge offered to pay for two volunteers to attend fire school and also provided some gear to the fire department. Our town council under Miller’s administration provided nothing. AT THE MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 15, 2020, WE NOW HAVE A TOTAL $5,000 FOR ALL EVENTS AND THE additional $8,000 shown on the INITIAL BUDGET WILL BE USED FOR SALARIES. Yet when the Town took over the Special events, $13,500 was given to the Town by the committee. NOW WE HAVE PROBLEMS GETTING VOLUNTEERS TO SIGN UP. Why should we, the committees have been intimidated by this Administration?
• Under Miller’s administration, the Swap Meet at the Hardware Store ceased. Most of these vendors received a small amount of money for their wares, but Mayor Miller and the council decided to charge each of the vendors $30.00 without any forewarning at the Azalea festival This was another detriment to the citizens who enjoyed going to the Swap meet as well as having an opportunity to meet their neighbors.
• Mayor miller also ran off any good Town Manager, like Bill Lawrence, because Mr. Lawrence did everything in accordance with the law, and Mayor Miller would not even let him speak at meetings. She further paid him a measly $40,000 instead of what she has paid other managers.
• Hamilton County fixed the road on Jewett Street and did not get paid until two years later. An invoice was received after the work was done but ignored by Pam Tomlinson. In the interim, although Miller blamed and wished to be rid of Tomlinson, she did nothing to make certain the County was paid. It took Joe’s phone call to the County Coordinator to get that handled. She never took a look at the finances until she now hired Tommie Jones and tries to look good to the citizens, even though she is using LOFT money for salaries and using Sewer and Water money for additional administrative expenses even though it should be used for our Sewer Revitalization project.
• Mayor Miller paid money from the Town for FLOW, which is no longer in existence.
• Mayor Miller decided to provide a bandstand for the Neighborhood which was money ridiculously spent and she had no clue what she was doing
• Mayor Miller worked on the I-75 CR136 interchange even if it wasn’t in our county and expected to provide the Sewer and Water from White Springs at that distance and have the businesses hire White Springs Residents for which there was not guarantee
• When Lofton was Mayor, she had the Council pay Mr. Strong $1000 for each basketball event, but in essence the Council agreed to $500 an event. When it was Rhett Bullard or Spencer Lofton’s administration she made certain they overspent on items not agreed upon.
• Mayor Miller used Town funds for the five letters her husband wrote to all the citizens who were provided water and sewer utilities defaming Joe Griffin. Ultimately she managed to get Joe arrested by the incompetent Karen Hatton for things the FBI wouldn’t even take, using every lie in the book. Only Bill Lawrence told the truth in a deposition stating Helen Miller was out to get Joe Griffin because of the transparency written in the blog, at any cost.
• Helen Miller secured the Eco Center from the State and had big plans for it. However, when she placed together an artists gallery she did not have the correct staff nor did she have anyone oversee what was going on and as a result it went defunct and she couldn’t even afford money for the lights. In fact it was in the Jasper News that she wished to pay for the lights in the Eco Center with other grant money and then Town Manager Bill Lawrence said she could not use the funds from Grants because it was only intended for the projects the Grants were awarded. If there was money, Miller wanted to spend it.
• Mayor Miller decided she wanted to start a charter school, but would not hire an applicant Tim Day who had started charter schools before and knew what was necessary if a Town did not have an adequate number of students. She lied about Day and caused him problems. In fact Martha Butler outline what Miller needed in her application and even with the help of Rhett Bullard and Attorney Koberlein, somehow she could not comply. It was one of those cases where I believed she did not wish to do it but look good to the Citizens and the League of Cities. And of course Joe worked with Martha Butler at the time and we had the information on the blog.
• Although the council voted to not fund the Charter School scenario, Helen Miller took a $5,000 Check from PCS intended for the HOPE program, paying her husband’s expenses on a credit card for an event they went to as well as money to Attorney Koberlein on the charter school. When caught and advertised on the blog, she then said she would pay the money back from her council salary but that did not happen.
• Her campaign material stated she worked hard to keep SHE open but frankly the Town did nothing to keep SHE maintained and it became a liability to the students due to it’s physical structure; but it gave her opportunity to look good but not actually help the citizens.
• It appears from the records that Miller increased the budget by 25% each year so she would have money to play with. At one time there was a Mayor’s fund to do things for the town but since Miller was elected that money no longer existed.
• When the HOPE program had a substantial amount of money for the Children of White Springs, Miller hired Lofton who hired his spouse and the funds dwindled, not going to the children as intended and when the money ran out, Miller tried getting others to handle the program for free but did not succeed. It was her duty to oversee what was going on with the HOPE program but instead has had someone else to blame for her mistakes or omissions.
• Because Joe complained to FDLE about the improper use of the Police Cars by patrolling the State Farmer’s Market, Miller made certain that Chief Rodriquenz was allowed to use the police vehicle back and forth from Rodriquenz’s home in Jacksonville and supposedly the Chief paid back money for her personal use but it was still wear and tear on the vehicle and Rodriquenz had a previous DUI. But by doing so, Rodriquenz was not charged by FDLE. That was the precedence and start of Andrew Greene being allowed to use the Town Fire SUV to and from work etc.
• Mayor Miller and Vice Mayor McKenzie with the help of the former Town Manager, provided the Pavilion Park, the Sidewalk to nowhere, and the Amphitheater, all of which are rarely used and certainly do not produce money as intended by the HCDA Grant of a Business Incubator.
• Monica was an excellent receptionist with the ability to assist others because of her high intellect. The Mayor did not like her and the excuse made was that she was hired by the HOPE program and they ran out of money. After making Shirley retire, the Mayor hired Rivers who had a record The Chief of Police, the Town Manager, and the Council approved the Mayor’s choice even though they did not do a background check or they tried to cover her arrests up. Rivers was paid $2.00 more an hour than Monica.
• The budget included some $6,000 for maintenance equipment. Mayor Miller, the Town Council, and Town Manager however elected to pay in excess of $9,000 for a lawn mower. This was when the State was mowing our berms and Woody Woodard complained that the lawn mower was so large it would not cut between the lighting poles. We had a perfectly good lawn mower, but smaller.
• Mayor Miller has always reigned over any Town Manager and has told them what they can and can’t do. As you have noted, Although we can thank Mayor Miller for hiring Tommie Jones, even though he is not even qualified to do a budget, Mr. Jones apparently will not listen to everything Miller tells him. He is good for now awaiting his pending contract.
• It was found that the State Park was not in compliance with our utility rates at the time of Mayor Miller’s tenure, but that was never handled so the State Park system would have to pay back the difference. It was also found that certain citizens were favored and did not have to pay the full amount of their water bill, they could be late and pay only installments or a portion. Favoritism was amuck by Mayor Miller.
• Mayor Miller received the 2012 SRLC Municipal Award for 32 months of service. It was for starting a summer enrichment and adult and community education program which the latter failed immediately; the utilization of $300,000 of grant money, even if not for the appropriate purposes. The 2012 Municipal Official of the Year has worked in cooperation with the University of Florida to complete an architectural visioning for the community and presented the plan at the Florida Rural Economic Summit and to Governor Rick Scott.
• The award was nominated for Miller’s tireless effort on projects and resolutions that address and attempt to reverse the continued drawdown of the Floridan Aquifer. She has also worked to establish food and fuel banks in her community, hosted a series of community forums to identify the concerns of the citizenry, appointed committees or individuals to act on citizens’ concerns, and initiated the position of Health Counsel for White Springs. None of these items worked so we know it was for her effort to go up the ladder politically and not to assist the Citizens of White Springs
Frankly going over these items make me realize how little Helen Miller cares for the Citizens of this Town. When I said she is as good as Tommie Jones with her lies, and pointing her fingers at others when it is her or his responsibility is amazing. We can thank her for what has happened in the last two years and the situation with Jones where other municipalities, because of White Springs’ reputation wish nothing to do with us.
The only great thing about White Springs is our wonderful White Springs Fire Rescue and those firefighters who have continually served us in spite of all the trials and tribulations they have faced.
Karin for the blog
No Joe and I are not and have not been the enemy. We just believe in the Truth and felt that if we assisted Miller she would finally follow the Laws. We ourselves would rather the laws be followed than seeking reimbursement of the Sewer Taxes but we know neither will ever happen for any of us.