Adams clerk plans to give advice to other supervisors

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 29, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; In a little more than two years, the Adams County Circuit Clerk’s Office collected almost $796,000 in outstanding fines.

Now the Wilkinson County Board of Supervisors wants Adams County Circuit Clerk M.L. &uot;Binkey&uot; Vines to show them how.

Board Attorney Ron Senko said Vines had recently offered to share some collection strategies that have helped reduce the outstanding fine balances in his office.

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Board President Kirk Smith said he would welcome any helpful discussion of the problem.

&uot;We need to get everybody to start working together on this,&uot; he said.

While he cannot lead them through every step of the process personally due to time constraints, Vines said he is compiling a manual for Wilkinson County officials to use.

&uot;We need to help out our neighbors&uot; in surrounding counties, Vines said.

Although more recent figures weren’t available, figures from last month showed that just under $796,000 in outstanding fines had been collected in Adams County.

In January 2001, six months of study revealed that $784,120 was owed in Circuit Judge Forrest &uot;Al&uot; Johnson’s court; $197,288 in Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders’ court; and $64,000 in County Judge John Hudson’s court.

As of last month, the amounts owed had been reduced to $203,000, $42,000 and $4,363, respectively.

In addition, $188,000 in judgments had been collected during that time.

Under the new system, Vines sends out letters and &uot;show cause&uot; orders directing people to show up at the courthouse to pay their fines or to tell the judge why they can’t.

If they do not show up in court, they are arrested on bench warrants.

The judge can then revoke their probation or sentence them to time in jail on contempt of court until payment arrangements are made.

Judges now direct defendants they sentence to pay their fines, or to make payment plans, with the Circuit Clerk’s Office before they leave the courthouse.

In addition, those owing fines are &uot;red-flagged&uot; in the office’s computer system so that if they ever come back to court, they will have to make payment arrangements before they leave.