Milton will rename Guy Thompson Community Center, may pursue forensic audit
The city of Milton will scrub Guy Thompson’s name from the community center that was named after him four years ago, and the building will revert to being called the Milton Community Center, following a unanimous vote by the Milton City Council on Tuesday night.
Last week, the former mayor and ex-director of United Way of Santa Rosa County pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and tax evasion charges for embezzling more than $650,000 from the organization that was meant for charity.
In light of that, the City Council brought up renaming the Guy Thompson Community Center at its Tuesday meeting. Councilman Jeff Snow made a motion to remove Thompson’s name from the outside of the building, as well as “anything else that might be in reference to him on city property,” and rename it simply the Milton Community Center.
“This community center is the city’s, by which I mean it’s the citizens’ and the children’s,” Snow said. “I really don’t think anyone’s name should be on it, and if we look at corporations or something down the road, so be it, but it was the Milton Community Center (before it was the Guy Thompson Community Center) and I think that is the best name for it.”
Councilwoman Shannon Rice urged the council to “take a little more time to consider” renaming the community center after a corporation or another person. Mayor Heather Lindsay said she had received several suggestions from citizens regarding who to name the center after next.
But for now, it will be called the Milton Community Center unless the council considers another name in the future.
City forensic audit is on the table
The council also discussed pursuing a forensic audit to determine whether Thompson embezzled any money from the city during his 20-year tenure as mayor.
“Folks have had concerns whether Mr. Thompson could have stolen form the city of Milton, which is a valid concern and a terrible notion,” Lindsay said. “As mayor, I have the authority to sign a check presented to me and that check has to be counter-signed by Mrs. (Dewitt) Noble (city clerk). I do not get to touch any money, not one penny. That being said, I would never have imagined Mr. Thompson could have achieved theft from United Way, so for peace of mind, I’m certainly interested in what can be done to verify for all of us if he could have removed anything from the city of Milton.”
City Manager Randy Jorgensen said a forensic audit could present some challenges, since city records often only go back five years and bank records only go back seven years. Thompson served as mayor from 1994 to 2014. Additionally, a forensic audit could cost the city upward of six figures.
“They (forensic auditors) could have a hard time identifying a period of time in which, if he were to have attempted to act, that would be discoverable or discernible,” Jorgensen said. “It’s a clerk and finance function. ... Staff stands ready to assist in any way we can, but you need to understand the limitations.”
Snow said he believed the city owed it to the citizens to look into the possibility of a forensic audit, and the rest of the council agreed.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Thompson, I believe, has pushed this council to this position. I think the citizens want to know,” Snow said. “Hopefully, there isn’t any wrongdoing that could be found out, but unfortunately we’re pushed to this position. I think we have to give the citizens answers. ... What we have to do is direct staff to start getting information about the parameters that a forensic audit will take, and how far we’ll be able to go back.”
The council will discuss the forensic audit again at its next Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, May 23.
Annie Blanks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8632.