Contempt hearings ongoing

Published 12:15am Friday, March 8, 2013

NATCHEZ — Six weeks after the Adams County Board of Supervisors instructed the justice court staff to work with judges to hold more contempt of court hearings, 33 contempt notices have been returned.

After Justice Court Clerk Audrey Bailey gave the supervisors an update Thursday on how the hearings have gone, the board authorized its attorney, Scott Slover, to work with the judges and chief clerk to outline policies and procedures to streamline contempt collection efforts.

Slover said those policies would include determining how to prioritize who to send contempt notices.

“Part of those will include those who owe restitution and damages, and you will want to look at the more recent (cases) because you have a better chance of finding them.”

The contempt hearings are an attempt to recoup fines owed to the county that have gone uncollected. Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess previously has said the amount of uncollected fines could be as much as $3.84 million.

The judge had in the past maintained that he was not able to hold contempt hearings because the clerks’ office — which is answerable to the board of supervisors — did not schedule the hearings. The supervisors told Bailey in January to start scheduling the hearings.

Bailey told the board that in the first month of hearings, her office sent out 109 notices of contempt of court, of which 33 were returned.

Sixty-seven of the notices were not returned, two of the recipients had died, two were in a correctional work release program and one was in a nursing facility, Bailey said.

The clerk said four of those who returned contempt notices were put on partial payment plans by the judges.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said when judges put defendants on partial payment programs, the judges should keep up with who owes what and when it is due. Circuit court judges do so, he said, and personally check to make sure payments are on time.

“I am not going to tell (the justice court judges) how to be a judge, but they need to be taking care of their business,” he said.

Slover said that for those who did not return their contempt notices, Bailey would present the judges with a bench warrant for that person that the judge could sign or not sign.

The clerk would keep a list of those bench warrants the judges refused to sign, Slover said.

“If the judge can sign or not sign, we find out right where the problem is,” Lazarus said. “If the judge doesn’t sign it, we need to find out why it is they aren’t signing it.”

Bailey said one problem her office faces when issuing contempt notices is that for older fines, many of the people who were cited have since moved. County Administrator Joe Murray said the county’s collection agency — Receivable Solutions Specialists — has software that can track down someone who has moved.

“Receivable Solutions needs to be communicating back to the county if they have found those residents,” he said.

The collection agency collects fines for the county at no cost to the county. Instead, those who pay their fines through RSS pay the fine and a processing fee. The supervisors speculated that some may have the money to pay the fine, but do not pay the fine because they do not have the money to pay both the fine and the processing fee.

Bailey said under the current arrangement, if someone walks into justice court wanting to pay their fine, she can’t accept it if the account has been turned over to RSS.

“If we collect, we are not going to collect for Receivable Solutions, we are going to collect for us,” she said. “If Receivable Solutions wants their 25 percent, they need to collect for themselves.

“I would rather take the money (from the person owing the fine) while they have it.”

The board instructed Slover to look into finding a way to allow the justice court clerk’s office to receive the funds.

  • Anonymous

    In one statement it says RSS does NOT charge. Then Bailey says she isn’t going to collect and pay RSS 25%. Once again it sounds like Bailey is just being stubborn. She really needs to go.

  • Anonymous

    RSS does not charge the county for collecting the monies due, they tack on their own fee. (25%)
    This may be part of the problem. If the county was paying RSS to collect, maybe they would get better results as RSS would be
    more accountable.

  • Anonymous

    Now, why in the world should the judge be doing their own collection monitoring Mr. Lazarus? That would be similar to Butch having to keep up with Holloway’s revenues, Circuit judges having to keep up with jail sentences and time remaining, etc. etc. etc. Hire me and buy me a $200 Quickbooks program to keep up with it – one delinquent fine will pay the tab for the software. I agree with ROTR that Bailey needs to be put out to pasture, her actions and language show a huge degree of arrogance even resisting the board’s decisions and unwilling to work with the judges. Now for the list, you will probably find that relatives with delinquent fines are put on the agenda for a specific related judge to not sign those……………this will make for interesting reading as it develops. Insofar as RSS, I have not seen any mention of how much they have collected from anyone over the past couple of years they have been saddled up. My previous solution for those who have moved out of area is to suspend their drivers license through the MHP and that will follow them ANYWHERE! Laissez le bon temps rouler!

  • Anonymous

    Now I guess as they say ……. the rest (or at least part) of the story!! Once again did not know anything about a meeting to discuss the past due fines with the Board of Supervisors. Ms. Bailey has not spoken to me for the past 6 weeks since she threatened me in court and I was willing to settle the matter for a “simple” apology for her disrespectful actions. Still waiting for that apology. Second, while a number of contempt notices were sent out many were for cases that were for traffic matters some 13 years ago. Defendants cited were in places like Milwaukee, Houston, and other far away places. Totally ignored were criminal matters, DUI’s, and minor drug charges from say the year 2009 or sooner. Ummmm is someone trying to show me who is in charge?? Also, the one day that was set up in my court was tagged at the end of a full day of felony, misdemeanor, and traffic trials. No notice was given to me until the actual date of court and one person showed up who had a partial fine from 2005. The kindly lady actually brought in a receipt showing the bill had been paid to a clerk down here. Still on the computer as owed….so where is the money?? I never saw one of the returned notices and maybe signed two Bench warrants on the supposed 67 not returned cases. Of course, I can’t speak for Judge Dunmore as she has her own style and I have no complaint about how she runs her court. Communication down at Justice Court is like going to a deaf-mute convention where nobody knows “sign” and everyone goes in a different direction. After that “mighty” first effort by the clerk of court to set up contempt hearings I sent some suggestions for improvements to both the BOS president and county attorney. They developed what looks like a good policy and incorporated some of my ideas. For the past 6 weeks or more I have had on our court calender contempt hearings for this Monday morning, March 11th. Would like to invite the Democrat and anyone else in the community to come into my court and see how many hearings have been set up. In this new “we are one” environment it might be interesting. Sorry, if I seem a little sarcastic but all I am trying to do is to work hard to collect that 3 million plus in owed money and prevent a tax increase. I can’t see how any elected official can think this is wrong!! Oh…P.S. Yesterday when the report was given to the Board and the newspaper compiled this article; I was off and received no phone calls…..would have been happy to attend the meeting or respond to any questions. Judge Charlie Vess aka Redsail

  • Anonymous

    Smells like something is rotten in Denmark.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    I feel that RSS contract needs to be cancelled and the county should take it over completely! To me this is a excuse to pass the buck situation with the county loosing 25% of the fine money. Also, some heads need to roll in the courts clerk office and soon for this is where the problem starts with the BOS as the biggest problem of ever letting fines to get to a monstous figure of over 4 million dollars is unreal!! There should be something in Ms. law that could fine or have the BOS called on the red carpet of the Attorney General in Jackson for not taking care of business thru the years of collecting county fines!!! I feel that Judge Vess was discriminated by not having his closed door discussion as Ms. Bailey got from the BOS that has the buzzards circling from the stinch smell of the BOS office !! I hope the ND gives time to Judge Vess so the taxpayers have more incite of this issue!! This is some serious fine money and if I had the power I would put to these folks to get every penny of these fine money are there want be any borrowing of money or raises till this money is collected in full and give them no more than 6 month to do it!! Also, if the ND would print the fine money paid by whom put in the records showing the date of when the fine first started till it was paid or the individuals jail times!!

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Judge Vess the next time I see you in person I owe you a apology for now the citizens and myself see where the humbug of the collecting of this mult-million dollars of fine money that hasn’t been collected !! That is interesting about the lady that paid her fine showing with her receipt and the computer still showing it owed don’t speak well of the courts clerks taking the cash money!! And if I remember all fines are to be paid by cash only if I’m correct?! By paying cash unless the people still have their receipt as the lady will still have to pay again! This issue isn’t looking good at all one way or the other huh’??!!

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Very well said and I totally agree!!!

  • Anonymous

    RSS must not be very hungry. The delinquent fines began about $2MM at the outset since they’ve been on the job. Now here we are about 2 years later and the outstanding balance has nearly doubled???? Only about a Mil on the table for them, not enough to put forth any effort?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks judge for putting real facts out to the public even at the risk of further alienating the court clerk and her staff. It is also fortunate that you are elected and have the option of vocalizing your position and the real facts without threat of losing your job. This is a debacle occurring under our noses, much the same as legislative deadlock in Washington DC has stifled the government at untold damage to the reputation of the USA and financial wherewithal of our country.
    The real problem is lack of proper action by all 5 members of the BOS to resolve this whole issue once and for all by dictating action by Ms. Bailey or the highway. Since they don’t feel this amount of money is needed in our government, just let them ask the taxpayers to fund a recreation complex or other big expenditures by a tax increase! Making a token effort to show you up in the public’s eye with small collection results is as you say just another ploy on her part to stifle the system. I hope that if she doesn’t go soon, the 5 of them will go next election.
    I hope you table the thought you mentioned in an earlier post about possibly retiring. You are in a unique position to remain a pain in the A** to the establishment if you stay in there and fight for the taxpayers and restoring a badly out of kilter system. Please hang on a while longer, your efforts are appreciated by more people than you think and I hope the ND keeps some spotlight on this issue to make the changes happen properly, and timely.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed about bailey. I think she needs to be investigated. Thank you Judge Vess for your statement.

  • Anonymous

    Why can,t these employees be prosecuted and serve jail time,pocketing funds and cooking the books,holding off on fines for relatives,good ole boys syndrome. Why is cooking the books or fraud any different from actual physical robbery. I can,t see the difference for the life me,They made Binky pay up or go to the slammer,why can,t they do this with all concerned.They are bad as the criminals..