Report: Democrats financial problems caused by Maddox
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Investigators found no fraud, but blamed an accounting scandal at the Democratic Party on poor hiring decisions by former state chairman Scott Maddox, who is seeking the party's gubernatorial nomination.
"The comptroller ... was in over her head," said former statewide prosecutor Melanie Hines, who was hired by new Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman to investigate how the party missed federal tax payments in 2003 and lost track of more than $900,000.
Maddox, the investigation found, played no direct role in the mistakes, but was also unaware of the problems despite pleas from the comptroller for help.
The chairman's chief of staff, longtime aide Paige Carter-Smith, was told by outside accountants about the failure to pay the Social Security and payroll taxes during two quarters in 2003, but didn't remember the conversation, Hines said. Carter-Smith and Maddox, however, were criticized for their hiring choices. "We know that the responsibility for the management of the payroll system was assigned to an individual who had no prior experience in that specific task," Hines said. "And who appeared not to have been trained in that duty" with only a "rudimentary understanding of the process." Hines said the comptroller, Debbie Griffin-Bruton, repeatedly told her managers about her concerns about her ability to handle the job. Maddox said he was not aware of the problems before last week's disclosure by Thurman, who only became chairwoman in May. Thurman said the party has paid off its obligation of slightly more than $200,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, which included interest and penalties. She said the party had about $80,000 in its account Thursday.
Thurman also offered a new five-point plan she said would restore confidence among Democrats in the party's business operations and pledged to find "excellent, credible candidates for every public office." She would not, however, say whether she believed her Maddox remains a credible gubernatorial candidate in the aftermath of the bookkeeping mess she inherited from him.
Maddox scheduled a press availability later to talk about the findings and his future. Griffin-Bruton issued a statement this week accepting blame for the problems. The state Republican Party, which operates with a larger staff at its Tallahassee headquarters, has raised close to $5 million already this year as it readies for the 2006 campaign cycle highlighted by races for governor and the U.S. Senate.
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