Winter Springs Under Inspector General’s Scrutiny Amid Commissioner Benton’s Campaign Finance Scheme

Winter Springs Commissioner Matt Benton

Winter Springs finds itself once again in the harsh glare of scrutiny as the Chief Inspector General descends upon the city, casting a shadow over the city’s rabid attempts to maintain a facade of normalcy. Behind closed doors, city leadership was sent into a tailspin Wednesday and Thursday having been caught making misleading public statements downplaying the Inspector General’s involvement leading to staff complaints about being left in the dark about the IG’s visit.

Mayor McCann coordinated a meeting with State Representative David Smith. The staff were left in the dark, believing the meeting was a meet and greet with Rep. Smith, which blindsided employees who had been led to believe the Inspector General had dropped the investigation and was not coming to town.

The saga is unfolding with all the precision of a detective novel, each revelation more damning than the last. Developments yesterday brought Commissioner Benton into the spotlight as part of an apparent campaign finance scheme that reads like a script from a political drama.

Commissioner Benton’s Unreported Check

Here’s the play-by-play: On July 25, 2022, Commissioner Benton, under the guise of his registered fictitious name “Graphic Services”, made a $1,000 contribution to then commissioner TiAnna Hale’s campaign for various printing and graphics services. On September 16, 2022 the same entity, Graphic Services, received a hefty sum of $4,636 from then Commissioner Kevin Cannon.

On the same date (9/16) Benton proceeded to dish out an additional contribution earmarked for commissioner Hale’s advertisements, according to people with knowledge of the financial transaction. This transaction was illegal for two reasons: a) It was never reported on any campaign finance report and b) It violated the $1,000 campaign contribution limit in state law.

Facilitating these transactions put Benton over the campaign contribution limit and in violation of state law. Despite the blatant attempt to cover the money trail by not reporting this check on Commissioner Hale’s campaign finance report, the truth has a way of unraveling even the most meticulously crafted deceptions, and Benton’s best efforts to bury the trail have not prevented the breadcrumbs of deceit from leading straight to his doorstep.

Path forward

As Winter Springs grapples with these questions, the reverberations of distrust echo through City Hall and beyond. A city once lauded for its resilience now finds itself ensnared in a web of lies and betrayal, a city staff in near revolt against its failed leadership, who seem more motivated to increase the salaries of the interim city manager than to hear the concerns of its hard working employees.

Representatives from the Winter Springs Community Association (WSCA) met with the Inspector General for several hours yesterday, and experienced the refreshing change of a public official willing to meet with and listen to residents, instead of criticizing them from the dais. We will continue to update you of any developments as the city remains under the oversight of the Governor’s Office of Inspector General.