APOPKA, Fla. - According to new Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, former Mayor John Land seemed to award contracts during his final hours in office as a reward to his loyal supporters, some of whom worked on his campaign.
Land, 93, is the only mayor many of Apopka's longtime employees have ever worked for. He had served as the city's mayor for all but three years since 1949.
But recently residents voted for change and elected Kilsheimer, owner of a public relations firm.
Kilsheimer said that once he took office, he discovered that Land was still in charge of some things.
"I had employees here at the city come to me and whisper under their breath, have you heard about these contracts?" said Kilsheimer.
Channel 9's Lori Brown learned that on Land's final day in office, he signed contracts granting 20 weeks of severance pay for nine Apopka employees, ranging from the police and fire chiefs to the secretaries for Land and the city's chief administrator.
"It raises fairness questions, for sure," said Kilsheimer. "Some of the employees who got contracts are department heads
; other department heads didn't get them."
Kilsheimer went on to say, "The common denominator was that they were involved in his campaign."
WFTV political analyst Rick Fogelsong said it is inappropriate to use tax dollars as a reward for a campaign, which should be a private endeavor.
Brown went to Land's home to ask him about the contracts.
"Why give these contracts out to some employees but not others?" Brown asked the former mayor.
"I'd have to review that and see," said Land.
"This didn't have anything to do with their loyalty to you?" Brown asked.
"No, they no longer had to be loyal," said Land.
"Sort of a reward for working on your campaign?" Brown asked.
"No, it was not, it was not. That comes up a lot, but for the betterment of the city and employee," said Land.
It's unclear if Land needed approval from the Apopka City Council to give out the contracts.
Kilsheimer said once a new city attorney is hired, he plans to ask that question.