Florida set to delete Hampton, a town with a questing, rent-seeking, corrupt wang

Hampton, Florida is a town so corrupt that it offends the Florida Legislature, a body with a notoriously high tolerance for sleaze. With fewer than 500 inhabitants, Hampton's major source of revenue is a diseased, questing wang that it has protruded from its main mass onto a 0.2 mile stretch of Highway 301 -- a stretch where the speed limit dips from 65 to 55. Hampton's hard-working traffic cops write an average of 17 tickets a day against out-of-towners, clearing $419,624 in 2011 and 2012. However, the town also operated at a deficit during this time.

There are lots of reasons for small towns to go into the red and sometimes it's hard to put your finger on exactly why a town can't make ends meet, but in Hampton's case, the cause is pretty clear. It's probably down to the (now incarcerated) ex-mayor Barry Moore, or possibly his three staffers who resigned in February, or maybe it was the police chief, who also resigned, along with 17 "employees." But if they're not the cause, it might be the town's water manager, whose business records were all "lost in a swamp."

All this has gotten beyond the pale for the state legislators, including the local representative, who was (perhaps unwisely, in hindsight) ticketed by a Hampton cop. They've given the town 30 days to clean up its sleaze or they're going to dissolve it.

The investigation also involves water, which is the one utility controlled by town government. Not only did it do a poor job of supplying water, the utility's financial records evidently left something to be desired. "The reason ... that no water meter logbooks before April 2012 could be found," the Times reported, "was that they were 'lost in a swamp,' the result of a car accident involving the water utility operator." (He forgot to file an accident report, it turns out, probably due to swamp trauma.) According to the sheriff, some residents said they were threatened with having their water turned off if they made trouble.

The town apparently has about 30 days to come up with a plan, or else the legislature is likely to dissolve it, which would make it part of surrounding Bradford County. That would presumably take care of the speed-trap tentacle, which is currently non-functional anyway due to lack of police "officers" to staff it.

"We are just trying to fix things that happened," said one of the five city councilmen, ironically (or not) named "Frantz Innocent." (Nobody's really to blame, you see—once again it's the fault of these things that keep happening. When will someone do something about the things?! They are getting away with murder.) "If you want to go poking around looking for something," Mr. Innocent continued, "you can always find something wrong." (It's the pokers' fault, too.)

Good Riddance to Hampton, Florida?

Notable Replies

  1. This town sounds like something that exists solely to provide the set-up for a "Swamp Thing" comic.

  2. Can't they just delete Florida?

  3. It's a shame. There's just no room for the hard-working small-time corrupt boss these days.

  4. Before the days of freeways, there was a similar situation at the crossroads of three major US highways in Ludowici, Georgia, on the main drag from the north into Florida. The AAA labeled it the most notorious speed trap in the country. The speed limit changed multiple times, seemingly at random, on the roads going into town. Many of those signs were hidden by vegetation or fence posts.

    At the highway intersection there hung the most notorious traffic light (specifically called out by AAA and Time magazine). It was capable of changing instantly from green to red without passing through yellow. Locals had a short cut constructed for them to avoid the light so it only fleeced out of towners.

    The town was also filled with crooked gambling joints and even more crooked gas stations. They'd pour water in the crankcase or some such thing and then send you down the road to get it fixed (at, and I'm not making this up, Billy Swindel's garage).

    It was quite an operation. The police were so corrupt that in 1963 governor Carl Sanders deprived them of the power to make arrests. Apparently, they worked on commission.

    Lester Maddox had a lot of faults, but after defying three governors in succession, Maddox finally figured out how to deal with them. He posted billboards on the roads into town:

    and, as you can see, posted a State Patrol guard on them 24/7 to prevent locals from tearing them down. A few years later, I-95 turned them into just another jerkwater town.

    Next time BoingBoing gives me an opening, I'll tell the story of the Three Governors controversy. Georgia once gave Florida a run for its money for crazy. It is the most baroque episode ever in Southern politics (at least, not involving Earl Long).

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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