Once labeled “the most corrupt city in America,” Hampton has made strides during the past two years to clean up its act.
Still, a new state audit shows there’s still work to be done in the Bradford County city of about 500, and city clerk Mary Lou Hildreth said she’s doing the best she can with a limited staff.
In 2014, the state auditor general looked at Hampton’s books, an examination that resulted in the former city clerk’s arrest on charges of defrauding the city water fund nearly $20,000. State auditors then gave the city recommendations on what and how to implement new regulations. Hildreth was appointed in 2015 and began implementing new policies and guidelines so the city’s financial records could be better monitored and become more transparent. She described the situation as a chance for a fresh start.
“There was no institutional knowledge really left in the city,” Hildreth said, “and that’s almost like you’re building a new city government basically.”
State auditors released a report on Aug. 29 that reported what was corrected and gave suggestions on how to further correct other aspects of the local government.
“Again, the prior administration said ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to do this, this, and this.’ You can tell people you’re going to do something, but you have to implement it. A lot of things weren’t implemented and that’s what we’re doing now,” she said.
Hildreth said they are working to correct most of the remaining items, but it will take time with the city’s limited staff; the mayor and other city council members earn just $1,500 annually, according to payroll records.
“There’s both administrative improvement and physical improvements that people can see and touch and feel and go, ‘Wow.’ It makes them proud of their community.”