A small Florida town that state legislators had threatened to push into extinction because of deep-seeded corruption was spared on Friday, according to residents and published reports.
“HAMPTON LIVES!!” declared a post by James Williams on the “Save Our Town Of Hampton, Fla.” Facebook page, which has garnered 321 likes by supporters of the town of fewer than 500 residents.
A meeting at the Victory Baptist Church on Friday night to give the community an opportunity to persuade Florida state Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Charles Van Zant that the square-mile city in Florida would change its ways, according to NBC affiliate First Coast News.
A February audit by the State of Florida Auditor General David W. Martin found Hampton guilty of more than 30 offenses, including misappropriation of funds and nepotism.
“The City Council had not adopted policies and procedures addressing the employment of relatives,” the complaint read in part. Additionally, “City officials’ salaries were not set by ordinance,” according to the audit.
The audit also found that even though traffic ticket revenues “exceeded the city’s estimates,” the city consistently went over its budget for “public safety.”
Those ticket revenues were gained by a speed trap officials had set up on a highway they had annexed years earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.
Residents started to complain about the tickets and after the investigation, council members and other officials resigned, the newspaper said. Hampton's mayor also was jailed in December on suspicion of felony narcotics possession with intent to sell, it said.
The town's future came down to Friday's "to-be-or-not-to-be" meeting, when Hamptonites pleaded with the lawmakers for a second chance. “We had heard that they were making progress, but it's obvious that they've made a lot of progress,” Bradley told First Coast News, referring to the town's supporters.
As a result, Bradley and Van Zant decided Hampton could survive, but not without stipulations.
Hampton must relinquish the road where the speed trap was set up and review town ordinances, among other things, according to Williams' announcement.
An elections for a new slate of town officials is scheduled for September. Afterwards, Williams' post said, Van Zant and Bradley will throw Hampton a celebratory barbecue.
— Elisha Fieldstadt
First published March 30 2014, 1:35 PM