THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said a pilot program that was begun five years ago to collect money owed to Lucas County in delinquent fines and court costs is a good example of cooperation between state and local governments.
Mr. DeWine joined Lucas County Clerk of Courts Bernie Quilter in Toledo on Thursday to announce that the state attorney general’s office has collected $808,370 in previously outstanding fines and court costs for the county court system.
“This has been done at no cost to taxpayers. It is a real win for Ohio taxpayers,” Mr. DeWine said at a news conference at One Government Center in downtown Toledo.
The pilot program, which allowed the clerk of courts to have access to state attorney general resources, began in 2008 and expanded last year to any local government agency that wanted to collect unpaid debt, as long as the amount owed exceeded $100.
Mr. DeWine, a Republican, said his office’s Local Government Collection Services Program, so far, has returned $1,927,228 to local governments, including the clerk of courts in Erie and Wood counties.
“The economic downturn we all experienced in recent years put a strain on many local budgets,” Mr. DeWine said. “Offering the infrastructure of the attorney general’s office to help return money owed to local governments only makes sense. ...”
Mr. Quilter said the pilot program, which started under former Attorney General Richard Cordray in 2008, has returned money to the county general fund and local governments, including Maumee, Oregon, Sylvania, and Toledo.
Money recovered by the attorney general was owed to the domestic relations and general division of Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
“The program has been highly successful and is providing funding for a large number of organizations, many for which the funding returns are statutory,” Mr. Quilter, a Democrat, said.
However, Brian Hester, a spokesman for the Ohio Democratic, said the attorney general’s debt collection efforts fell to $453,800,000 in 2012, a 1.5 percent drop from the year before.
“While Governor Kasich was slashing funds to local governments, Mike DeWine was punishing them again by failing to collect money owed to the state — thanks to his neglect, collections on the state’s debts decreased for the first time in five years. Just as he botched the launch of the facial recognition software program, Mike DeWine has come up short at taxpayers’ expense,” Mr. Hester said.
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