DeFuniak Springs Mayor reacts to Grand Jury report

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - An investigation into the city of DeFuniak Springs is putting pressure on many city officials as the Grand Jury report is released Wednesday revealing inconsistencies within government operations, calling it "a mess."

"Collectively, whenever you see these problems, yes, it looks like a great big mess. I think the city has done quite well under the circumstances but not well enough," DeFuniak Springs Mayor Bob Campbell said.

In July, the State Attorney's Office opened a preliminary investigation into financial audits of the city after failing to file annual financial audits.

Now, the investigation has come to an end.

"I think it was a real wake up call, mainly to the seriousness, particularly our financial," Campbell said.

The report claims a "lack of knowledge of government operations by those entrusted with governance," the investigation stirred up a storm, pointing fingers across the board.

"Probably everyone that has had a place of responsibility [in DeFuniak Springs] in the last six or eight years have had a part in this and so, me as well," Campbell admitted.

The report highlights a major issue snowballed due to multiple vacancies and "outdated and inadequate policies and procedures."

"We've had a governing body that has pretty much remained the same and then we have position being replaced, like finance director and city manager, way more frequent than should be," Campbell said. "So we need to take a look at ourselves at why we either can't get qualified people or we can't keep qualified people. And so my suggestion is that we let some professionals from the outside help us."

After the city repeatedly missed the annual deadline to file financial audits, the state withheld more than $220,000 in tax revenue.

"I think a lot of times we just don't realize the jeopardy that we put ourselves in. I didn't realize with the late audits," Campbell added.

The Mayor said he agrees with the Grand Jury's recommendations and hopes the city council can move forward to rectify the ongoing issue.

"We need to all get on board and to pursue this," he said. "Have the city hold this council, I'm talking about the people of our city, hold us accountable to make sure we follow through, that we don't just start implementing their ideas, but we follow through."

After four consecutive years filing late audits, the city now has fewer than 30 days to file their latest tax audit or lose more money.

Mayor Campbell said the city has already hired a new city manager and they hope to hire a qualified finance director as soon as possible.