Village looks into collecting on old mayor’s court fines

SALINEVILLE-Village officials estimate the village is owed an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 in old mayor’s court fines and fees, dating back to 2009.

So it’s not surprising that council members, Salineville Mayor Mary Smith and Police Chief Andrew Straley discussed methods to go about collecting this money at Tuesday’s village council meeting.

A mayor’s court has not operated in the village since 2011, despite attempts to get it up and running since Smith took office in 2012. Last summer, members of the previous village council voted to hire a prosecutor in case the village would again begin holding mayor’s court.

On Tuesday, Smith told council the past mayor’s court’s inadequate record keeping was preventing the village from collecting on fines and fees assessed defendants.

“Money is slowly coming in,” said Smith. “We don’t know how many (tickets) are active, how many are inactive, how many are paid or unpaid-we don’t have records over there (in the police station).”

The only mayor’s court records the village does have is in the form of old traffic tickets, Smith said, adding she wants Straley to pursue collection on the tickets. The mayor said collecting on the fines could be a significant source of revenue for the village.

Councilman John Higgins, who previously served as police chief in Lisbon, said he did not think it would be feasible for the village to collect the ticket money without documentation showing who had paid and who had not

“I don’t know how we can figure it out if there’s no receipts to show if someone paid or didn’t pay,” said Higgins.

When asked how many unpaid tickets are on file at the police station, Straley said that he had at least “100-plus.” The chief said he has not had time to track down the names and phone numbers of those who owe unpaid tickets.

“It’s impossible to find people’s names and current numbers,” said Straley. “A lot of them don’t live around here.”

A few motorists who had their licenses suspended due to the mayor’s court tickets have come forward to pay off their fine, but the vast majority of tickets remain unpaid, he added.

Village solicitor Andy Beech advised council that since the village does not have a magistrate, they can not legally order offenders to come pay the fine. He said Straley could try calling offenders and convince them to pay the tickets voluntarily.

Beech offered to speak to the county municipal court to determine if it is possible for the court to issue warrants or summons to return offenders back to court, but noted this may not be possible without the proper legal records.

“If they have not complied with the terms of the disposition, there’s a process for bringing them back in by issuing a summons or a warrant,” said Beech. “But any citations, orders, summons or warrants of that nature would have to come from a court- the mayor or council can’t issue those.”

Councilwoman Nancy Needham questioned why, if those cited in mayor’s court had their license suspended, had they not paid their fine in order to reobtain their license. Higgins contended that once an offender’s license expires they can go obtain a new one without the state knowing that it was ever suspended.

It was determined that council would work to get the tickets at the police station organized, while Beech checks into the legalities about issuing a summons for those owing the village fines.

“It’s a shame that that much money is laying over there and we can’t go after it,” said council president Sally Keating.