My initial speech to Senator Montford on LOFT

Good Afternoon Senator Montford, Representative Brannan, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, and County Elected Officials.  My name is Karin Griffin and I live at 16589 Mill Street in White Springs, Florida.

The State of Florida continues to provide the Town of White Springs with many programs and benefits to assist its Citizens — for which we are grateful.  Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you, Senator Montford,  since you are a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) that our Town has misspent in excess of $700,000 in Local Option Fuel Tax (LOFT) revenue.  As a result, the citizens and visitors to our town must experience potholes, cracks in our streets, and clogged drainage ditches.  Of the $700,000 received by the Town — in the last three years — only a very small amount — perhaps about $10,000 — has been spent on minor road and street repairs.

Under Florida Statute 336.025 County transportation system; levy of local option fuel tax on motor fuel and diesel fuel, the Town of White Springs has been provided, through  an inter-local agreement with Hamilton County, about $700,000 in the last three yeas.  As you are aware, the statute stipulates that the LOFT funds be retained in a restrictive fund and used only for “Transportation purposes”, as defined by the statute.  Yet our Town does not have a separate restrictive fund for the LOFT revenue, but instead puts the LOFT funds into the Town’s General Fund.  As a result, the Town does not track how the LOFT funds are spent.

Based on financial data that is available, it appears that the Town spends most of the money on administrative salaries and travel, police salaries, legal expenses, designer clothing and water, and recently has purchased an excavator and trailer for $60,000.

It is estimated that the misused funds total about $700,000.  District 2 of the Florida Department of Transportation has been attempting to identify an agency that has the authority to investigate this serious violation of state statute. After speaking to many of the Florida agencies to which we were referred, the Department of Revenue advised us to either call the Media to investigate, or to file a complaint of public corruption with the FBI.  Both of these recommendations tell us that no one has any faith in our state institutions to police serious violations of state statutes.

The current administration of White Springs and three of five councilors refuse to believe the LOFT funds are solely for transportation and must be held in a restrictive fund, and accounted for.  When Councilor, Dr  Helen B. Miller made an inquiry to the Attorney General’s office, she was threatened by two councilors with forfeiture of her council seat.  Our CPA and Town Attorney have provided opinions that the LOFT money may be spent without any restriction.

If these funds are required to be paid back, as my husband Joe Griffin and I have been informed by the auditor general, it will cause undue hardship to the citizens who have received no benefit relating to our transportation infrastructure. WE feel the money has been wasted and certainly not spent according to the state statute.

Again Senator Montford, since you are on the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee (JLAC) that oversees the Dept. of Revenue, we ask that you help us with a solution, that you identify the appropriate agency to facilitate an investigation, and audit of the Town and misused LOFT funds.Thank you for your consideration.

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