Councilman William Reid dislikes debt collectors so much that he would rather see the city lose up to half a million dollars in court fines rather than seek an agency to recoup the money. Councilwoman Rebecca Williams says letting the fines slide is a slap in the face to officers who wrote the tickets and "makes a mockery of the court."
So went the latest standoff over the administration's proposal to seek a collection firm for $750,000 in fines owed to the Plainfield Municipal Court. The council was asked Tuesday to authorize a "request for proposals" with a proviso that the selected company could keep up to 22 percent of what is collected.
Only four council members were present Tuesday and there was no consensus to move the resolution to the agenda at the Sept. 10 regular meeting.
In public comment, resident and blogger Dr. Harold Yood urged the objectors to reconsider, saying the offenders likely had multiple fines. He acknowledged Reid's concerns about debt collectors, but said,"You are dealing with people who broke the law."
Yood said, "Compassion is great - it's wonderful. But you are not dealing with the average citizen. You are dealing with people who constantly (flaunt) the law."
His words did not sway Reid, even though the councilman had just cited an instance of trying to help someone who could not get out of jail until he paid off numerous traffic tickets in half a dozen towns.
Public Works Director Eric Jackson, sitting in Tuesday for City Administrator Eric Berry, said Municipal Court officials had asked the administration to bring back the collection measure, which had been rejected last month.
Jackson said the administration would be sensitive to Reid's concerns and noted many fines were owed by people outside the city.
"We're not intending to beat down residents," Jackson said, urging reconsideration.
Note: Whatever past experience may have soured Reid on debt collection, debtors now have new safeguards against harassment in the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
of 2011. The Federal Trade Commission enforces its provisions. Debt collectors may no longer call people at odd hours or at work and may not tell others why they are trying to track down the debtor. The legislation was not mentioned at the council meeting, but Plaintalker encourages a look at it and also urges reconsideration of the proposed legislation sought by court officials.