Bond forfeitures in Roane County go uncollected for decades

Bond forfeitures in Roane County go uncollected for decades

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For decades, Roane County's court system failed to collect money it was supposed to be taking in for bond forfeitures. For decades, Roane County's court system failed to collect money it was supposed to be taking in for bond forfeitures.
"Roane County deserves answers as to why this money hasn't been collected in 20-plus years," candidate for Roane County Circuit Court Clerk Marty Miles said. "Roane County deserves answers as to why this money hasn't been collected in 20-plus years," candidate for Roane County Circuit Court Clerk Marty Miles said.
By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KINGSTON (WATE) - For decades, Roane County's court system failed to collect money it was supposed to be taking in for bond forfeitures.

Only recently has the office made changes to correct the mistake, and 6 News learned it was after county judges pointed out the oversight.

If a person that has been arrested fails to show up to a court appearance, the defendant, or commonly the bonding agency, is responsible for paying the cost of the bond.

It’s that money that Roane County Circuit Court Clerk Kim Nelson's office said has not been collected for decades though it is now working to correct the error.

"Roane County deserves answers as to why this money hasn't been collected in 20-plus years," candidate for Roane County Circuit Court Clerk Marty Miles said. “Roane County had a big fat goose egg when a lot of other counties had a significant amount of revenue coming in yearly from the bonding forfeitures."

Roane County Judge Jeff Wicks told 6 News the judges brought the problem to Nelson’s attention last year after attending a judicial conference and learning that the county was missing that revenue source.

Wicks said Roane County is now focusing on staying current, meaning they haven’t yet started collecting bond forfeitures from years past.

Wicks said there are four bond forfeitures currently pending totaling around $8,000 that have not been collected yet.

"As far as I'm concerned, our office here in Roane County is 20 years behind other offices," Miles said.

6 News looked into several surrounding counties where the clerk's offices have been collecting bond forfeitures for years.

The amount varied by county, especially in counties with varying population.

The McMinn County Circuit Court Clerk's office said they collect about five to six bond forfeitures a month, with values of anywhere from $500 to $5,000 each.

According to Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk H. Tyler Mayes, the General Sessions Court brings in an average of about $20,000 to $30,000 a year in bond forfeiture collections.

In the last two years, Knox County Criminal Court averaged about $12,500 a year in collections.

Blount County General Sessions Court brought in about $7,000 in 2013 for bond forfeiture collections.

In a statement to 6 News, Nelson said: “Bail bonds in Roane County had never been forfeited prior to my term as Circuit Court Clerk. I have worked with our local judges and other court personnel to modernize our office and develop a plan to process bond forfeitures.  That plan is working. This has been a tremendous task since we are working through decades of inactivity with regard to forfeitures. I have recommended to our county budget committee that our offices need additional staff to process bond forfeitures and other court cost collections. I hope that the County commission will assist the Circuit Court Clerk's office with this effort.”

Roane County Commissioners Randy Ellis and Bobby Collier are both on the finance committee and said they did not receive a request from Nelson this year asking for additional staff. Roane County Executive Ron Woody Woody, who chairs the committee, also said no request has been submitted.

6 News asked Nelson how much money has been left uncollected from bond forfeitures in Roane County and we are still waiting on that response.

“That's the question that I have and I think it's a question that all taxpayers should have is how much can we get? How much is owed to our county and how much have we missed out on?" Miles said.

6 News also reached out to the two other candidates running for Roane County Circuit Court Clerk, Ann Goldston and Sarah Stewart.

Stewart told 6 News if elected, she plans to work with the judges, sheriff's office and bonding companies regarding bond forfeitures.

Goldston provided the following statement to 6 News: "I have a plan for increasing the use of resources in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office by establishing a cross training program for all employees. As with any candidate, I am running for this office because I feel I can improve the office based on my experience of working here for nine years. Working for two different Circuit Court Clerks has provided me the opportunity to see what does and doesn’t work, giving me the best opportunity to make any changes. The current issues should be addressed to the present Circuit Court Clerk. I am sure she would not want me to answer for her nor would I want someone to answer for me."


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