Presented by Attorney Maxie G. Kizer and Bea Cheesman, the Receivables Management Corporation of America (RMC) presented the committee members a collection process that they would render for past due tickets for the Pine Bluff Division of District Court.

A special called Public Safety Committee meeting was held Monday at 4:30 p.m. before the regularly scheduled Pine Bluff City Council meeting.

Presented by Attorney Maxie G. Kizer and Bea Cheesman, the Receivables Management Corporation of America (RMC) presented the committee members a collection process that they would render for past due tickets for the Pine Bluff Division of District Court.

The fine collection process would entail the defendant pleads or is found guilty by the court and the court would enter a judgement. The judgment is deferred for 90 days to give the defendant time to pay.

If the judgement is not paid in 90 days, the judge enters a Warrant for Failure to Comply with Court’s Judgment. The warrant provides for arrest of the defendant and incarceration in the Jefferson County Detention Center.

The warrant is referred to RMC for collection 100 days after the court enters the judgement. The warrants are exempt from FDCPA, are not dischargeable through bankruptcy and have no statute of limitations attached.

RMC would set up two separate client numbers for the city for those warrants. Client one would be for the warrant itself with 70 percent going to the city and 30 percent to RMC. The defendant would get 100 percent credit for the payment.

The second client would be for the State Automation Fee which 100 percent goes to the city with the defendant getting 100 percent credit for the payment.

RMC would add $10 a month on the first of each month to client two until the state automation fee is paid in full. If the defendant ignores RMC’s calls or letters, RMC would file a garnishment with the court.

A system already used by the county, Kizer said they are finding the offenders are owing both the county and the city. With fines dated back as far as 2005, he said 38% of their collections are from Jefferson County residents and 62% live in other cities and states, with a lot from Little Rock.

Council member Ivan Whitfield inquired if this method was supported with a letter by the Pine Bluff District Judge John Kearney which Kizer responded that the judge told him to tell him what date he needed the letter and he would write it.

“I don’t have one on me but I can go see him the first thing in the morning,” said Kizer.

Whitfield had concerns about the license suspension, wage garnishments, liens on properties and arrests warrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kizer said 90 percent of the way they collect is either by talking to them or by wage garnishment.

“The statute that says we collect a criminal judgement in the same manner in a civil judgement,” said Kizer. “When the court hands down a criminal judgement, it is an automatic lien on people’s property but the only way you would be able to collect using that lien method is a very inefficient manner of collecting things. We don’t do that. We don’t tax people people’s property.”

Cheesman added that they have been working with a multitude of people during COVID and garnishment is the last resort.

“We would much rather they come in voluntarily weekly and pay something versus having to go to the trouble of filing a garnishment,” she said. “We have released numerous garnishments during COVID and set people up on a payment plan.”

Whitfield said that when people know they’re going to have a lien on their property or a wage garnishment, it will elevate a person’s mind to find a way to get the money, even if that results in crime.

“I think that Chief Sergeant and his staff already have their hands full and there’s no means that is going to stop that from happening,” said Whitfield. “People having to make a decision what they have to pay, yes they should have paid their fine but I just have a concern on how we are doing it.”

He also said most people don’t find out they have a warrant until they pay their fine and questions the judge’s empathy to suspend the warrants.

According to Kizer, when someone pays through RMC (county) in full they are given a card and are told that their driver’s license has been suspended by the court and they must contact the court for reinstating their license.

“They don’t know they still got something out there until they pay that money and they still go to court,” said Whitfield. “It’s almost like they don’t get through paying the court and yes it is their fault because they got the speeding ticket but I just think in this time as hard as it is for everybody, it’s dangerous grounds we are putting on our citizens.”

Kizer’s response said if there are no consequences the public will think they can do whatever they want to do.

“When they owe the city and the county, that’s multiple behaviors, breaking the law,” said Kizer. “They either plead guilty to a crime or they were found guilty of a crime. When it comes to judges, sure we can ask them to do all kinds of things but most of it is a case by case basis.”

The special called meeting ran over its allotted time with no resolution. A follow-up meeting will be scheduled by the committee.