Local Option Fuel Tax (LOFT) Money is still being used by White Springs to pay payrolls and not as required by the Florida Statute. I am forwarding a previous e-mail which includes much of the information and research which went on by Joe Griffin and I, with the help of the Local Department of Transportation in Lake City.
The crux of our investigation is that even the Lawyers from each agency contacted said it was not right for our Town to be in violation with the statute and should pay the money back, and even though Hamilton County has been aware of the violations of LOFT funds, the consensus was no agency shall go after its municipalities. The only way would be a citizen to take a lawsuit and who wishes to go against the State of Florida, it’s senator Montford who blatantly lied saying funds were spent correctly. So we dropped the issue when Helen Miller became mayor again as she promised we would no longer violate the statute, but that did not happen. Representative Branford ignored us.
Yet today, and in accordance with the budget prepared by our forensic analyst’s Michael Whitehead, a consultant, because Tommie Jones did not know how to complete or explain a financial, we are using LOFT funds for salaries and benefits for employees.
We get a 6.55 percentage of the 9 cent Local Option Fuel Tax revenue Hamilton County receives. This is in accordance with the interlocal agreement with Hamilton County. Although I have the figures for the years up to 2018-2019, I have made an estimate of what our Local Option Fuel Taxes should be for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 periods. Fuel Taxes have been reduced by reason of lower fuel costs as well as fewer trucks on the road, except of course during COVID-19 shutdowns. Based upon my estimate of $182,267 or $180,000 , We cannot figure out where the money has gone.
White Springs Hamilton County
FY 2013/14 $ 33.949 $ 76,607
FY 2014/$ $ 89,246 $ 301,729
FY 2015/16 $ 118,653 $ 301,905
FY 2016/17 $ 165,231 $ 433,295
FY 2017/18 $ 225,490 $ 415,868
FY 2018/19 $ 210,738 $ 399,785
FY 2019/20 $ 195,986
FY 2020/21 $ 182,267
Yet Mayor Miller was the head of the administration for a period of one year, and in both the 2019-20 FY and the newly budgeted 2020-2021 FY, she has used Local Option Fuel Taxes to float payrolls, insurance FICA etc.
In 2019-20 FY $114,202.09 was spent under Street and Roads which most likely was all LOFT funds and is currently on the budget listed as restricted funds. None of these items for which LOFT funds were used follow the statute.
So in the 2020-21 FY, Mr. Whitehead did what was done before and placed $239,544.72 for Transportation expenses including payroll insurance, etc which doesn’t qualify with the restrictions of the statute. That is more than the $180,000 we anticipate as being paid by Hamilton County for our 6.55%. So of course Helen Miller did what she complained other administrations did of $50,000 as an interfund transfer from the Sewer Water Enterprise account to the General Fund.
I spoke with Helen Miller by phone advising her that I noticed she also is using LOFT funds. Her answer was, we would not have had enough money to run the Town without it. Yes we should be bankrupt and we should have never bought the excavator but in the last year Helen Miller was Mayor, she apparently spent more LOFT money than the other terms,
For years, I recall our budget utilizing the words “Public Works” since all our employees can do is to mow the grass essentially and clean ditches. The excavator and backhoe have not even been moved and when the backhoe was used, a professional had to be hired (independent contractor). What the budget now states is “Street and Road” Construction. What the State of Florida did was change their landscape gardening classification to Street and Roads so if one unfamiliar with the Town of White Springs looked at our budgets, there would be no question for our spending LOFT funds for Street and Roads. However, I am certain that our Workers Compensation and General Liability classifications under our Florida Municipal Insurance Trust Policies would not used the Street and Road Classifications which are defined in the statute under “Transportation”. Our people clean and mow grass, pure and simple except for one individual which also works with sewer and water but has not passed his ticket for water so we also have a consultant from Jasper.
And as a result, our Town has not repaired its streets and roads.
For Roads, Streets, Sewer Collection and Water Distribution the Town has budgeted $13,000 into a sinking fund for future equipment purchases. It is noted that Local Option Fuel Tax restricted revenue was never a separate line item.
It was stated that in FY 2015-2016, the Town received $ 118,653 from Local Option Fuel Taxes but there was no separate line item for LOFT funds
Although the Budget shows “Roads and Streets Expense” there is no proof it was actually expended because it was not a separate line item as a “restricted fund” but part of the General Fund. Legal Expenses were also taken from the restricted LOFT funds.
$ 10,976 Roads/Streets Salary
$ 840 Roads/Streets FICA
$ 16,000 Street Lighting (RECEIVED MONEY THROUGH A Shared GRANT- PAID LESS THAN $4000 IN 2017)
$ 500 Road/Street Rentals
$ 3,061 Roads/Streets General Insurance
$ 3,000 Vehicle Maintenance
$ 50,022 Road/Streets Repairs/Maintenance (Does this mean there will be some real work on those incessant potholes?) (NEVER HAPPENED)
$ 3,000 Roads/Streets Operating Supplies
$ 3,000 Roads/Streets Fuel
$ 500 Uniforms
$ 1,000 Roads/Streets Signs
$ 2,000 Traffic Barricades
$ 93,899 TOTAL ROADS/STREETS EXPENSE (NO STREET REPAIRS WERE ACCOMPLISHED)
It was stated that in FY 2016-2017, we received LOFT funds of $165,231
We were told that in 2016-2017 the Town Spent $93,000 on operations and capital for roads and streets. However no street and road work was done so it is believed that the $93,000 TWO YEARS AFTER THE DAMAGE WAS PAID TO HAMILTON COUNTY. Hamilton County fixed Jewett Street after it washed out from flooding due to a hurricane which dropped 30 inches of rain. The Town did not pay Hamilton County for two years and finally Hamilton County was paid in 2016-2017. This was not money paid by the Town but was money received from FEMA and another source for the full amount of the road work. The Town received an invoice with a full breakdown of what was done by Hamilton County but the Town did not place a payable to a line item to pay Hamilton County and spent the FEMA money for items required out of the General Fund. Once Hamilton County required payment, two years after the work was done, $55,000 had to be taken out of our Enterprise Account (Sewer and Water) to pay Hamilton County, since the money was gone and not held in a payable account.
We attended the special meeting of August 3, 2015, regarding the $92,662 which we owe Hamilton County for the Jewett Street project. We are correct in that FEMA paid White Springs that amount for the claim and the money was not earmarked for Hamilton County but spent out of the general fund. The Damage to Jewett Street happened two years prior.
Former Mayor Miller also referred to the fact that in the Powell and Jones Audit, the $92,662 came in and then the audit showed that the $92,662 went out, so it looked like it had been paid or why did the auditor not catch that when processing the operating budget?
COPY OF HAMILTON COUNTY’S INVOICE FOR JEWETT STREET
Again from the conditions in the Town of White Spring’s infrastructure, it is believed any money spent was not spent from the Local Option Fuel Tax Funds but rather money received from other sources and grants. The LOFT Funds then were just spent out of the General Fund for whatever the Town needed and was not a separate restrictive account as is required by Statute.
These are the estimated fuel taxes The Town of White Springs may have received, none of which were spent in accordance with the Statute pertaining to LOFT :
Motor and Diesel Fuel Taxes (State Estimates)
Local Option Fuel Taxes 9 Cent Fuel Taxes
Jasper Jennings White Springs Unincorporated Hamilton County
FY 2013/14 $ 84,872 $ 33,949 $ 33.949 $ 695,947 $ 76,607
FY 2014/15 $ 233,115 $ 89,246 $ 89,246 $ 1,829,540 $ 301, 729
FY 2015/16 $ 237,306 $ 118,653 $ 118,653 $ 1,898,451 $ 301,905
FY 2016/17 $ 330,462 $ 165,231 $ 165,231 $ 2,643,693 $ 433,295
FY 2017/18 $ 466,815 $ 254,752 $ 225,490 $ 2,495,533 $ 415,868
FY 2018/19 $ 436,275 $ 238,085 $ 210,738 $ 2.332.272 $ 399,785
CPA Ken Daniels revised the FY 2016-2017 Budget 136 days after the Final Audit was done using Local Option Fuel Taxes to pay an exceeded Legal Service Budget.
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 were 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: (1) 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”
As a consequence, Tebo who drafted the resolution 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, the Town 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
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.
Councilor 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. Again unwilling to discuss #18-02 at the July 10, 2018 council meeting, Rescinding “Resolution #1802, Amending the 2016/2017 Budget” was again removed from the agenda and #18-02 has not been rescinded.
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.”
REITERATION OF AN E-MAIL SENT BY OUR TOWN’S CPA TO PAM TOMLINSON WHITE SPRINGS FINANCE DIRECTOR:
Here’s what was said in the memo dated Friday July 13, 2018 at 5:01 PM
To provide an example regarding the use of the Town’s fuel tax, I offer the following.
The proceeds that the Town receives will basically remain the same – It’s the allocations among departments that must change.
In the past (I’m using round numbers for an example), the Town received $100,000 in revenues (including $25,000 in LOGT) and was expended among departments as follows
Administrative $20,000; General Government $10,000; Police $34,000; Fire $25,000; Roads and Streets $5,000; Human Services $1,000; Recreation $5,000 (Total $100,000)
You must now allocate costs differently using the same total revenue and expenditures:
Administrative $10,000; General Government $5,000; Police $34,000; Fire $20,000; Roads and Streets $25,000; Human Services $1,000 ; Recreation $5,000 (Total $100,000)
You may lean on the LOGT hard due to the funding of the Roads and Streets from other sources in prior years.
If I can be of further assistance, contact me.
Kenneth M. Daniels, CPA, P.A.
The law does state that fuel tax money should be spent for road repairs And Hamilton County which has an interlocal agreement with White Springs is very aware that White Springs does not spend such money on Road Repairs or within the perimeters of the Statute. It is understood that we were told by the Town’s CPA and by former Mayor and Councilman Rhett Bullard,esquire that in accordance with the standard accounting principles, that 25% could be taken by the General Fund for services provided by the office and others.
REVENUE ESTIMATES FOR THE LOCAL FISCAL YEAR ENDING SEPTEMBER 30,2016 WAS $225,490. COUNCIL WOMAN DR. HELEN MILLER CITED THAT SHE KNOWS IT HAS NOT BEEN SPENT ON TRANSPORTATION AS CITIZEN TOM BRYCZEK HAS COMPLAINED ABOUT POT HOLES WHICH COULD DAMAGE A CAR GOING OVER 30 MPH
Pam Tomlinson, Finance Director said the reason Ken Daniels increased the amount which would be spent from the Local Option Fuel Tax for Roads and streets from 5% to 25% is because we needed to catch up. Well it is a bad situation because we should have already spent $450,000 on Roads and streets in the last two years. To our knowledge only an estimated $6000 was spent in 2018 to fix the roadway in front of now Mayor Spencer Lofton’s residence. All other potholes remain undone. The Local Option Fuel Taxes are not kept within a special restricted fund but for years have been placed within the General Fund for use by the Town from Legal Expenses, to salaries or for anything they chose to spend these funds on by reason the LOFT funds have never been separated, just dumped in the General Fund to use as the Town Manager and Finance Director chose to cover the Town’s expenses.
THE LAW WAS CITED:
3. County and municipal governments shall use moneys received pursuant to this paragraph for transportation expenditures needed to meet the requirements of the capital improvements element of an adopted comprehensive plan or for expenditures needed to meet immediate local transportation problems and for other transportation-related expenditures that are critical for building comprehensive roadway networks by local governments. For purposes of this paragraph, expenditures for the construction of new roads, the reconstruction or resurfacing of existing paved roads, or the paving of existing graded roads shall be deemed to increase capacity and such projects shall be included in the capital improvements element of an adopted comprehensive plan. Expenditures for purposes of this paragraph shall not include routine maintenance of roads.
(7) For the purposes of this section, “transportation expenditures” means expenditures by the local government from local or state shared revenue sources, excluding expenditures of bond proceeds, for the following programs:
(a) Public transportation operations and maintenance.
(b) Roadway and right-of-way maintenance and equipment and structures used primarily for the storage and maintenance of such equipment.
(c) Roadway and right-of-way drainage.
(d) Street lighting installation, operation, maintenance, and repair.
(e) Traffic signs, traffic engineering, signalization, and pavement markings, installation, operation, maintenance, and repair.
(f) Bridge maintenance and operation.
(g) Debt service and current expenditures for transportation capital projects in the foregoing program areas, including construction or reconstruction of roads and sidewalks.
RHETT BULLARD AND OUR TOWN ATTORNEY KAREN HATTON ADVISED IN THE JULY, 2018 MEETING THAT DR. HELEN MILLER AND JOE GRIFFIN WERE WRONG AND THAT SUCH MONEY COULD BE SPENT ON ITEMS IN THE GENERAL FUND.
JOE GRIFFIN QUESTIONS CPA’S MISUSE OF LOFT RESTRICTED FUNDS BY E-MAIL
JOE GRIFFIN SENT TOWN CPA ADVISORY LEGAL OPINIONS
Forwarded message ———-
From: Joe Griffin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Jul 20, 2018 at 10:36 AM
Subject: Re: fyi
To: Ken Daniels <email@example.com>
Advisory Legal Opinion – AGO 94-20
Section 336.025(1), Florida Statutes, authorizes a local option gas tax of one to six cents upon every gallon of motor fuel and special fuel sold in a county and taxed under the provisions of part I or part II of chapter 206, Florida Statutes. The statute limits the use of such tax revenues by county and municipal governments “only for transportation expenditures.” For purposes of the section, “transportation expenditures” is defined to mean expenditures by the local government for the following programs:
“(a) Public transportation operations and maintenance.
(b) Roadway and right-of-way maintenance and equipment and structures used primarily for the storage and maintenance of such equipment.
(c) Roadway and right-of-way drainage.
(d) Street lighting.
(e) Traffic signs, traffic engineering, signalization, and pavement markings.
(f) Bridge maintenance and operation.
(g) Debt service and current expenditures for transportation capital projects in the foregoing program areas, including construction or reconstruction of roads.”
In addition to the above-cited uses, counties with a population of 50,000 or less on April 1, 1992, may use local option gas tax revenues to fund infrastructure projects that are consistent with the local government’s approved comprehensive plan or, if approval or denial of plan has not become final, consistent with the last plan submitted to the state.
Advisory Legal Opinion – AGO 82-94
“206.605 Additional eighth-cent tax on motor fuel.–
(3) Funds available under this section shall be used only for purchase of transportation facilities and road and street rights-of-way, construction, reconstruction, maintenance of roads and streets; for the adjustment of city-owned utilities as required by road and street construction, and the construction, reconstruction, transportation-related public safety activities, maintenance, and operation of transportation facilities.” (e.s.)
The Revenue Sharing Trust Fund for Municipalities was created by Ch. 72-360, Laws of Florida, now codified as s. 218.215(2), F.S., into which fund the revenues derived from the additional eighth-cent tax on motor fuel levied by s. 206.605, F.S., are deposited by the Department of Revenue. See, ss. 206.605(2) and 218.21(6)(b), F.S.
CPA KEN DANIELS ADVISING TOWN HOW THE TOWN MAY SPEND LOFT RESTRICTED FUNDS:
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 8:36 AM
Subject: RE: The Attorney last night said “follow the advice of the CPA”
To: Joe Griffin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Stacy Tebo <email@example.com>, “Pam @ White Springs Town Hall” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Of course you can spend fuel tax funds on the salaries of Town officials.
Pam accounts for roads and street expenditures, she takes minutes of meetings in which road and streets are discussed (obviously), bills are received and paid relating to roads and streets. Ditto for the employee who patches a pot hole. Stacy manages employees relating to roads and streets (“fix that pot hole”). Council provides oversight/direction.
All costs that are directly or indirectly related to roads and streets are allowable costs. The above must be incurred to properly manage the roads and streets located within the Town of White Springs. (Direction by Council; employee management by Stacy; budgeting, bill pay, and accounting by Pam, actual maintenance by Town employees).
Many local governments allocate costs based on the portion of the budget that roads and streets represents when compared to the total (General Fund) budget.
Costs may be allocated to roads and streets, including salaries, as long as any reasonable method is used.
The Town has not allocated costs in the past simply because funds were not available – funded via general revenues.
The Statutes that reference the use of the fuel taxes are at Florida Statutes Chapters 206 and 207 .
From: Joe Griffin <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 7:12 PM
To: Stacy Tebo <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Stacy Tebo <email@example.com>; Pam Tomlinson <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com; Ken Daniels <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: The Attorney last night said “follow the advice of the CPA”
Therefore I want to see every letter, email, notes of any conversation, etc. where Ken Daniels said it was okay to spend Local Option Fuel Tax revenues on salaries of town officials. Pam had one of them last night. I want to see all of them. If there are funds required to get these documents this week please advise me Thursday and I will bring the funds to you, post haste.
For Ken please tell me you didn’t say that, PLEASE
During The July 10th Monthly Council Meeting our Town Attorney Karen Hatton who is an attorney with strength in Criminal, not Civil Law, and who must be able to read statutes, was asked what should be done regarding the misspending of restricted LOFT funds and she told us to listen to the Accountant’s (CPA)advice.
INTERPRETATION of LOFT MADE BY WHITE SPRINGS’ CPA
On Fri, Jul 20, 2018 at 8:10 AM, <email@example.com> wrote:
Please see below:
Motor Fuel and Diesel Fuel Taxes
(Ninth-Cent and Local Option Fuel Taxes)
Sections 206.41(1)(d)-(e), 206.87(1)(b)-(c), 336.021, and 336.025, Florida Statutes
Authorized Uses of Proceeds:
County and municipal governments may use the tax proceeds for transportation expenditures as defined in s. 336.025(7), F.S. Transportation expenditures are defined to include those expenditures by the local government from local or state-shared revenue sources, excluding expenditures of bond proceeds, for the following programs.
Public transportation operations and maintenance.
Roadway and right-of-way maintenance and equipment and structures used primarily for the storage and maintenance of such equipment.
Roadway and right-of-way drainage.
Street lighting installation, operation, maintenance, and repair.
Traffic signs, traffic engineering, signalization, and pavement markings installation, operation, maintenance, and repair.
Bridge maintenance and operation.
Debt service and current expenditures for transportation capital projects in the foregoing program areas, including construction or reconstruction of roads and sidewalks.
My interpretation of the above is that transportation does not exist in a vacuum. It requires oversight and direction. The term “operations” appears to be a very large umbrella and encompasses a broad range of services including management. I find no Attorney General Ruling to the contrary.
However, if there is any ambiguity in the term “operations”, I would suggest that the Town’s Attorney provide an opinion. Of course, I would defer to the legal interpretation.
Ken Daniels CPA
JOE GRIFFIN ADVISES CPA THAT THE CPA USED THE WRONG STATUTE
From: Joe Griffin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2018 9:22 PM
To: Ken Daniels <email@example.com>
Mr. Daniels bemused Statutes which require the payment of taxes to a State with the Taxes already received by the State for which the State allows a portion to each county and subsequently to a Municipality through an interlocal agreement with the county. Florida Statute Chapter 336.025 explains each detail and is a restrictive fund statute. County transportation system; levy of local option fuel tax on motor fuel and diesel fuel.—is the correct statute; not 206 and 207.
PLEASE PROVE TO ME THAT I AM WRONG.
The percentage of the gas tax each city receives is based upon it’s population and that percentage of the estimated $3,447,560 estimated for FY ending 9/30/2018 is as follows:
Hamilton County 72.49 % or $2,495,533
Jasper 13.56% or $468,815
Jennings 7.40% or $254,7552
White Springs 6.55% or $225,490
It was stated at a meeting “In any event you will see many of your potholes being filled one by one.” Stacy Tebo indicated besides the bottom of the hill being filled by Florida Fill and Grade, which was the worse, She has ordered 2,500 pounds of cold patch in 50 pound bags and has indicated that a 50 pound bag does not go that far.
COUNCILWOMAN MILLER WRITES TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL REGARDING LOFT AND WAS THREATENED BY THREE COUNCILORS OF LOSING HER SEAT AGAIN for “Malfeasance”. The council removed her previously for questioning the Council on items such as LOFT in a quasi Judicial hearing which was decided prior to the hearing to charge her with Malfeasance
August 13, 2018
Attorney General Pam Bondi
Department of Legal Affairs
The Capitol PL 01
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1050
Dear Attorney General Bondi:
RE: OPINION REQUEST- LOCAL OPTION FUEL TAX – MUNICIPALITIES
May proceeds from the Local Option Fuel Tax (LOFT) authorized in 336,.025 (7), Florida Statutes, be used to fund municipal management, legal and operating expenditures, staff clothing and consumables; registration and travel expenses for staff attending conferences and training?
Should municipalities establish City Street System (i.e. Municipal) Transportation Trust Funds for all transportation-related revenues and expenditures associated with their share of LOFT received pursuant to an Interlocal Agreement between the County and the Municipality?
On April 24, 2018, I was elected to the Town Council of the Town of White Springs. A council member’s official duties include voting to pay / not pay accounts payable presented at the regular monthly council meetings. Official duties also include participation in the development of the town’s annual budget at public workshops and hearings, and voting to approve the final budget.
In order to educate myself about the town’s sources of revenue, and their possible restricted uses, I have studied the enabling legislation and the section of the 2017 Local Government Financial Information Handbook that relates to the Local Option Fuel Tax (LOFT). Additionally I have researched the Attorney General Opinions relevant to this revenue source.
My layman’s understanding distilled from these sources suggest that LOFT proceeds – passed to the Municipality from the County, pursuant to an Interlocal Agreement – are subject to the transportation project uses specified in subsection (7) of 336.025, F. S. This understanding conflicts with the advice and direction delivered by the town’s auditor to town management and council members through a series of emails (attached, dated July 13,2018, July 19, 2018, July 20, 2018). The town auditor delivers ever-changing and confusing instructions on the authorized uses of LOFT proceeds. He states that “transportation does not exist in a vacuum….The term “operations” appears to be a very large umbrella and encompasses a broad range of services including management”. He states he has found no Attorney General Ruling to the contrary. The Town’s auditor concludes his advice (July 20, 2018 email) by suggesting that “if there is any ambiguity in the term “operations” that the Town’s Attorney provide a legal opinion.
When the Town Attorney was asked for her legal opinion on the authorized uses of LOFT revenue (during a town budget workshop held on July 17, 2018, prior to receipt of the town auditor’s July 20, 2018 email), she said the council needs to follow the town auditor’s direction.
White Springs’ following the auditor’s direction (since 2015) has led to several years of LOFT revenues being used for management and operating expenditures, specifically compensation for the town manager, town clerk / finance director, administrative assistant, and public works staff for consumables such as staff clothing and designer water, and registration and travel expenses for staff attending conferences and training.
During the same period of time (2015 to present), minuscule LOFT revenue was being used for public transportation operations and maintenance, for roadway and right-of-way drainage, and for traffic signs, traffic engineering, signalization, and pavement markings installation, operation, maintenance and repair. (Town financial reports are attached.)
An attorney General Opinion is requested in order to define for myself and my council colleagues (1) the allowable uses for LOFT proceeds before the 2018-2019 fiscal year commences, and (2) the need to set municipal policy establishing a City Street System (i.e. Municipal) Transportation Trust Fund for all transportation-related revenues and expenditures associated with the municipal share of LOFT received pursuant to the Interlocal Agreement between the County and the Municipality.
Helen B. Miller
Helen B. Miller
cc: Mayor Spencer Lofton
Vice Mayor Tonja Brown
Council Member Rhett Bullard
Council Member Walter McKenzie
Town Attorney Karen Hatton
In the Jasper News, it was noted that Jennings, Florida’s Budget Summary for the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 has THREE COLUMNS FOR ESTIMATED REVENUES AND THREE COLUMNS FOR EXPENDITURES/EXPENSES.
There is a General Fund Column; A special Revenue Fund and a Total
In their Special Revenue fund they show $35,300 Cash on and, $4,700 Miscelleanous Revenues and a $18,000 “Transfer in”; but most importantly their $230,000 Local Option Fuel Tax is listed within that fund as Intergovernmental Revenue. Jennings Administration and Officials DO NOT HIDE MONEY LIKE WHITE SPRINGS. And in the Roads and Streets Special Revenue Fund column, they show $265,700 including the $230,000 of Intergovernmental LOFT. How about that! It’s even published.
Then there is Hamilton County Board of County Commissioner’s Budget Summary for Fiscal Year 2018-2019. There are Four Columns: General Fund; Special Revenue Funds; Enterprise Funds and a Total Budget. Again Hamilton County shows Intergovernmental Revenues of $12,701,949 under “intrgovernmental Revenue of the Special Revenue Funds and shows Appropriated Expenditures/ Expenses of $13,200,716 listed as “Transportation”.
All the Department of Transportation or the Auditor General has to do is look at White Springs financial accounting and paramedics may have to respond because the many cover-ups and misappropriations made since Rhett Bullard, esquire became a Town Official and Pam Tomlinson who does not have more than a GED has remained the Town’s Finance Director. White Springs is the epitome of confusion, mistakes, cover-ups; misappropriations; nepotism, cronyism, embezzlement, fraud, deceit, bribery and corruption. And who suffers? The Citizens of White Springs.
JOE GRIFFIN E-MAILS
CPA KEN DANIELS:
Maybe you can explain to me why Jennings and the County do things right….
With regard to the LOFT and White Springs is totally ignoring the law of uses for this “special funds” receipt, I’m looking at September 12’s Jasper News when it had both Jennings and the County’s proposed budgets replete with legal uses of the LOFT. White Springs is blaming you for this mis-expenditure of special funds. Maybe the Attorney General and the Department of Transportation will solve this problem. Your name and your emails have already been provided to each.
Council votes 3-2 to approve a 304 Echo II MINI Excavator at $47,000 plus a Trailer to be purchased from Local Option Fuel Taxes
POSTED ON AUGUST 23, 2018
Ray Vaughn was asked to provide the differences between the mini excavator and our Current Backhoe. He offered the following information:
The Mini Excavator is now being used by more contractors because it is more versatile than a Backhoe and the Mini Excavator has more features.
It is a safer machine because the backhoe with the boom extended does not allow for a good visual of what is being done.
The Mini excavator has rubber tracks so it does not tear up grass like the backhoe.
The Mini Excavator uses 1.5 gallons of diesel per hour as compared to three gallons on the backhoe.
It is more adaptable to use an air hammer or brush hog.
The Mini is 6.5 feet wide as compared to the 11 foot wide backhoe which because of the backhoe’s width, it is difficult to get footing on the side of the road.
With respect to the Backhoe it has teeth and will damage concrete ditches whereas the Mini has no teeth.
The Mini is 3000 lbs vs. 4500 lbs of the Backhoe
The Mini has a 10.5 foot extender as compared to the 14-17 foot extender of the backhoe.
The Mini has more versatility and can go near a fence 45 degree
The Mini can straddle a ditch which you can’t with a backhoe.
The Mini is time savings there are only three steps and it turns 360 degrees whereas the backhoe requires seven steps to move three feet at a time.
The Mini requires a trailer because it goes only 2.5 miles per hour where as the backhoe can travel at 30 miles per hour that is why a trailer is required for the Mini.
The Mini can maneuver stably off the roadway not stopping traffic turning 360 degrees.
We still need our backhoe for moving stones and large objects etc.
Dr. Miller stated that since she was not aware of Mr. Vaughn’s job description that she would like to know what his job entails and how much time would be spent utilizing the Mini excavator.
Ray Vaughn said that he could use the excavator 50 hours a month because it is a lot quicker to dig ditches. He said he is not a rookie and worked with John Peeler’s Mini excavator. He said the backhoe just can’t straddle ditches. He said he can dig up unnecessary grown foliage; he can dig when there is flooding, around ditches, grass, tree limbs and trim near fences. He said now because we do not have inmates he keeps mowing grass. In the winter he will do more digging, etc. He fills in water leaks and there was a hole and he filled it and on 1st Street he trimmed a limb. It is non stop mowing and that is what he does now. REMEMBER DIGGING AND THE WORK MR. VAUGHN INTENDS TO USE THE EXCAVATOR FOR ARE NOT PART OF THE DEFINITION OF “TRANSPORTATION” IN THE STATUTE RELATING TO LOCAL OPTION FUEL TAX FUNDS.
Since the motions had been made, a vote was requested for the Town to purchase the 304 Echo II Mini Excavator at $47,000 and the motion was carried by a 3-2 vote.
Rhett Bullard was in glee as was Attorney Karen Hatton relative to the fuel tax misuse of funds. Attorney Hatton agreed with Rhett Bullard in her opinion and that of our CPA Ken Daniels that operations can include Administrative, General Government, Police, Fire, Human Services and Recreation as per Ken Daniels with $25,000 going toward Street and Roads.
When we provided the Statute on line and while everyone was so excited that they came up with “operations” as an allowance, even from an insurance standpoint and via the ICC definitions operations, such definitions never included salaries for clerical office employees and police officers, etc. An executive supervisor would be included for a different rate than street and road employees because that supervisor would not have the same exposure as those actually working on the street and roads themselves. Nevertheless our CPA’s interpretation that “Operations” does not have a distinct and definite definition became an out for the Town of White Springs to use Local Option Fuel Taxes for anything they wished the money to be spent on including equipment.
Again our CPA has determined that in stating “Public transportation operations and maintenance” “operations” may include Administrative clerical employees and police because there is no definition of “operations”.
According to the Council, materials obtained by a citizen’s group stated that the excavator is purchased to excavate Water and Sewer pipes. Fuel Tax revenues cannot be used legally for Water and Sewer operations, even if it’s a pipe, which lies below a street or road, that requires maintenance. The funds for that maintenance must come from the Water and Sewer revenue
Under the Road/Street “Budget” for FY 2018/2019, the following is included: (Using LOFT funds)
The Town’s Budget for Total Roads and Streets Expense listed is $225,029. The Local Option Fuel Tax is estimated for the year at $210,738. However, Local Option Fuel Tax Funds are not being used for its intended purpose and includes the following:
Further the town has eliminated our Public Works Department and now calls it Roads/Streets so LOFT funds would not be questioned if used inappropriately without an investigation or audit of our Accounting Records.
It appears that with health insurance, Mr. Vaughn’s salary and benefits come to $88,192 a year not including $1,800 for communication and travel and training
The actual money for insurance for Roads/Streets is $13,804; $50,000 for Repairs and Maintenance; $15,000 Operating Supplies and $2,000 Road Materials and Supplies, Totals $80,804.
In the “Roads and Streets Department, equipment, meaning the new excavator is listed at an expenditure of $30,693.00 which is one half of the cost for the excavator and trailer, for which LOFT funds will be used..
Motion before the Council on the 13th of November regarding the purchase of the Work Truck to be purchased with
POSTED ONNOVEMBER 10, 2018Authorgod4joe
An approval by the Council is required for the purchase of the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 4WD double cab Work Truck. The Town budgeted $27,693 in Roads and Streets for the purchase of a new truck. Under the Sheriff’s Association contract, the price is $27,533.55; this includes thee towing hitch needed for the trailer (for the Excavator which was purchased under Roads and Streets) and the tag. The truck is a double cab and will be able to transport four to five inmates. It hauls 14,400 pounds.
It is a travesty bestowed upon the Citizens of White Springs to observe how the Town can spend money on toys while our streets and roads remain in disrepair, thereby causing vehicle damage if unrepaired, two year plus potholes are not avoided.
A citizen complaint:
Why do they need a new truck to tow the minihoe when they have a perfectly good dump truck F350 or 450 not sure the size but I know it will tow that machine with no problems. Why not leave it hooked up to it. you can use the truck to haul the stuff away an tow make sense to me Ray does not need a brand new truck to drive home every day that money can be spent on something else that will help the town. I say if they do it then what you do is put ray on call 24-7 if trees come down or something happens stop call your no existent fire department and just call Ray is that’s his job right roads an street/ public works/ meter reader/ do all and say nothing. Boy I forgot he is now one of the cousin cronies. This is one of the most stupid things this town is doing but hey it’s the normal for these officials and staff
Also didn’t the town just spend a crap load of money putting a brand new motor in the ford dually dump truck? So why do we need another brand new truck to let someone drive it home every night and use it for hunting like the truck has been now.
THEY WON’T FIX OUR POTHOLES JUST SPEND IT ON OUR ROAD AND STREET GUY RAY VAUGHN EVEN IF IT IS IN VIOLATION OF THE STATUTE PROVIDING SUCH RESTRICTIVE FUNDS. EVEN HAMILTON COUNTY KNOWS THE TOWN IS RUNNING ILLEGALLY ON THIS BUT NO ONE WANTS TO BE THE ONE TO COMPLAIN. WE’RE STILL WORKING WITH FDOT ON THIS BUT GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY IS A SLOW PAINFUL PROCESS.
TOWN’S AUDITOR THREATENS HARRASSMENT CHARGE AGAINST GRIFFIN FOR ASKING WHY LAWS ARE NOT FOLLOWED FOR LOFT
POSTED ONNOVEMBER 9, 2018Authorgod4joe
Maybe you could explain to me…
Important mainly because it was sent directly to you.
|Thu, Nov 8, 4:23 PM (20 hours ago)|
Why Jasper has one set of rules for the Local Option Fuel Tax and White Springs has another. It’s a puzzle to me.
6:57 AM (5 hours ago)
12:53 PM (0 minutes ago)
What are you talking about?
I guess I’ll argue against you for an extension off your contract. Emails are not criminal harassment. You have failed to answer my question. Scared of your answer?.
Fwd: 119 Request for the expenditures made from the LOFT account for FY 2017-2018.
TOWN FINANCE DIRECTOR VERIFIES THERE ARE NO SEPARATE LINE ITEMS FOR THE EXPENDITURES OF LOCAL OPTION FUEL TAX reserved REVENUES. THAT MEANS EVEN TODAY LOFT FUNDS ARE JUST A PART OF THE GENERAL FUND TO BE SPENT HOWEVER THE TOWN MANAGER, RHETT BULLARD ESQUIRE, TONJA BROWN AND SPENCER LOFTON SEE FIT.
———– Forwarded message ———