Cities and county courts using collection company
Posted: Monday, July 5, 2010 8:01 pm
JACKSON (AP) — Dozens of cities and counties in Tennessee with unpaid fines and court fees are using a collection company with a vice president who says the service is a cost-free benefit for taxpayers.
Solutia Revenue Recovery’s vice president of operations, Laura Boyd, declined to say how much the Columbia-based company is making from the collection work for 40 county courts and about 50 municipalities, but she said the profit is from added fees.
The Madison County circuit and general sessions court offices are using the company and clerk Judy Barnhill told The Jackson Sun “it seems to be working well.”
Lebanon police chief Scott Bowen said that after using a company that took a percentage, the city changed to Solutia in February 2008 and has received $273,000, at no cost to taxpayers. He said the company’s profit was about $80,000, from additional fees.
Bowen said another benefit is an attitude change: a larger percentage of people now pay fines and court costs on time.
“It has worked very well for us,” he said.
Boyd declined to provide a total of fees the company has collected for the local government collections since starting the work but said the client list has steadily grown.
“It was mostly word of mouth,” Boyd said. “We’ve had a lot of success.”
She said “most clerks’ offices are understaffed; plus they don’t have the expertise and don’t have access to databases. Many of our collectors have been here 20 to 25 years and know the business like the back of their hand.”
Barnhill said the two court offices review cases to decide which ones to turn over to the collection agency and generally refer those that are more than six months in arrears.
Madison County began turning cases over to Solutia in November, and through the end of May, the company had collected $20,338, Barnhill said.
She said cases where the person is in jail or prison are not referred until after release dates.
“We give them a little bit of time after they get out of prison before we try to collect the money,” Barnhill said.
Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com
Published in The Messenger 7.5.10