Those county residents with delinquent fines, court costs or other fees can in the future expect not-so-gentle reminders to catch up.
At its meeting this week, the Greene County Quorum Court adopted an ordinance permitting the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) to collect delinquent fines, fees, costs and restitution assessed by the Greene County Circuit Court.
“We had it [before the Quorum Court] in September,” said Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon, “but decided not to do it.”
As previously reported, the subject had originally come up at the Sept. 21 meeting of the court. At that time, the court considered, but did not vote on, an ordinance drafted by the AAC to allow the Association to undertake collection activities on behalf of the county as a private contractor. The collection efforts could involve attachment of liens to property owned by delinquent individuals.
Greene County Treasurer Debbie Cross had said that the county treasurer’s office had undertaken such collection efforts in 2011-14, in cooperation with the sheriff, but had stopped with the election of the previous sheriff, David Carter.
According to page 11 of the AAC’s Fine Collection Handbook posted on the Association’s web site: “upon claim by the county, the state can withhold an individual’s income tax refund if he or she still owes fines that have been delinquent for longer than six months.” Apart from liens, other remedies meant to encourage catching up on delinquent fines and such (or payments on them), according to the handbook, can include:
Suspension, revocation or refused renewal of the individual’s driver’s license until the delinquency is made good. This option is not used in Greene County.
For eligible inmates of county jails or the Department of Corrections, the litter pick-up program funded by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (at $2 an hour)
The work release program (already in place in Greene County)
A rarely used “pay for stay” option for inmates of county facilities, as permitted in Arkansas Code Section 12-41-505. “Pay for stay” is not used in Greene County, according to jail administrator Brent Cox.
According to the ordinance enacted at the meeting, McMillon is to sign a contract with the AAC, designating it as a private contractor, to be the responsible party to collect the delinquent monies. “They’ll be giving not-so-gentle reminders,” he said. “It may come as a rude shock.”
According to the contract itself, the Association’s County Collection Service (CCS) is to do the collecting. Greene County is to pay CCS a flat $25 commission for each debt that is at least 90 days delinquent. (No commission is to be charged for any delinquent debt less than $25).
Debts CCS is to collect include fines, court costs, public service work supervisory fees, restitution and probation fees – “all monetary penalties imposed by the courts of this state.”
Greene County is to notify by mail those with delinquent monetary penalties.
The contract became effective upon McMillon’s signature Dec. 23.