SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - WFTV uncovered a criminal investigation into a now former Seminole County worker accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from county coffers.
WFTV's Tim Barber discovered documents that show fee and permit money was disappearing, and he found out what Seminole County officials are changing to prevent it from happening again.
Every time a builder in Seminole County pays a fee or permit, they
hand over money to the planning and development division, or at least that's what's supposed to happen.
WFTV uncovered an audit, which shows someone may have been pocketing some of the money.
Don Peterson has been a builder for nearly 40 years, so he wonders how much of his cash made it to the county.
"It's stealing, and it's from a high level where you are supposed to be trusted," said Peterson.
County officials used to give people hand-written receipts and would enter the information into a computer system later, but the director told WFTV that Patricia Johnson was not following that procedure.
She's been fired and is now being investigated by the Sheriff's Office. Peterson said he never had a problem with her.
"You trusted her?" Barber asked.
"Well sure. ... I am a bad person because I trust everybody," said Peterson.
The county is cracking down and adding new procedures.
Everyone who visits the department to pay a permit or fee has to sign in
online. Then they have to wait for printed receipt.
The department even added green signs, telling people to call the director if they do not get a printed receipt. From now on, Peterson will make sure he does.
"Yeah, it gives me a burning gut. I just cannot believe they were doing it," he said.
The entire audit can be found at wftv.com/weblinks.