Knoxville hopes to collect $500,000 in unpaid fines

11:26 PM, Jan 22, 2013   |    comments
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For 26 years, Judge John Rosson has watched people come in the city courtroom and refuse to pay their fines.

"It has always been an issue. I think every court in the country has this problem," Judge Rosson, municipal court judge, said.

From speeding to illegal parking to dogs without a leash, the city cites its citizens for breaking the law. The judge says he understands some folks have legitimate excuses for not paying up, but that's not always the case.

"I suspect the economy is a big factor in a lot of these cases, but not all. Some people just don't want to pay," he said.

Those unpaid court costs and fines, usually around $100 a piece, have added up. The city now hopes to track down that lost revenue with a collection agency.

"It's upwards of $500,000 and it's just us being wise stewards of the money," said Eddie Mannis, Knoxville's chief operating officer and deputy to the mayor.

This comes at a time when the city owes millions in pension debt. Even if they collect all of the $500,000, it will not begin to cover all the money needed.

Mannis said the volume of unpaid fines was too much for their current staff to try and collect. They asked the city council to hire a collection agency to do the leg work.

Tuesday night, the council agreed. Now they must submit a request for proposal. Once they choose a collection firm, they will decide how to go about collecting the overdue money.

The judge says with 2010 legislation mandating him to fine anyone without car insurance, he doesn't see this problem going anywhere.

"It might get better over time, but it's not going to go away," said Judge Rosson.

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