A city in Florida could be abolished after state auditors discovered a myriad of accountability problems that suggest its small staff might have been taking advantage of government funds and resources. According to The New York Times, one of the most glaring and noted problems bringing the city of Hampton to attention was that it had turned a small stretch of highway that it annexed back in the mid-'90s into a speed trap, using it to hand out over 12,000 tickets between just 2011 and 2012. Though it holds just a quarter mile of federal highway, the city reportedly lowered the speed limit by 10 miles per hour — down to just 55 mph — from the stretch of road around it, and was easily able to ticket scores of drivers passing through.
A quarter mile of highway, 10 mph slower than what surrounds it
Looking at a map of Hampton makes it clear just how bizarre this practice was: the city reportedly measures just one square mile, and it strangely branches off on a single side just far enough to loop around its tiny sliver of highway. The Times reports that at one point, the city's police force had grown from one officer up to 17, some of who were volunteers, some driving uninsured cars, and some who may not even been trained on using a radar detector. A former mayor of Hampton actually tells the Times that the city took over the section of highway with profits in mind. It reportedly made $151,000 in 2012 and nearly $270,000 in 2011. Nonetheless, the city's books are in the red.
Florida's audit found other troubling issues, including a multitude of missing records that Hampton claimed were lost in floods, nearly half of the city's water going unaccounted for, and disappearing city funds. "If half of this is remotely true, they’ve used the city as a personal pocketbook," Gordon Smith, sheriff of the county Hampton is located in, tells the Times. As for how this could all go unnoticed, that may be partially because of the city's tiny staff: it had just three full-time employees as of last March (as well as one part-time crossing guard). Hampton reportedly now has less than a month to draw up a plan and begin an effort toward reform, otherwise the state will hand the land over to the surrounding county of Bradford. Chances are, Bradford would even out the highway's speed limits.