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Published: Friday, 3/14/2003

Toledo Municipal Court hunts for $7 million owed in verdicts

Steven Hardy owes the most money in fines and court costs to Toledo Municipal Court: $12,227 from 14 cases.

Lisa Renee Dick has the most cases - 50 - for which penalties have yet to be paid. Court officials said she owes $7,532.

The oldest case with an unpaid fine belongs to Wilber Butler, who owes $40 from 1978.

Court officials said this is a small sampling of the 71,000 disposed cases in which people owe nearly $7 million in fines and costs through the end of last year.

They hope a new program will prevent people from renewing drivers licenses and vehicle registrations until the debts are paid.

“The idea is they clear this matter up before we pursue the enforcement phase,” presiding Judge C. Allen McConnell said yesterday when he and Clerk of Court Theresa M. Gabriel announced the program.

The fine-collection effort will not target people with unpaid parking tickets.

The court will waive all late fees for those who pay fines between March 31 and April 4. A night court session will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. April 3.

Those who don't pay before April 4 will be unable to renew their licenses or registrations.

Court officials spent several days running a computer program that compiled 1,296 pages with offenders who owe money.

Ms. Gabriel said nearly $3 million is owed in about 33,000 traffic cases and nearly $4 million is owed in about 37,000 criminal cases.

The court collects about $4 million a year in fines and costs. The money is divided among several coffers, including the city and state.

Municipal Court Judge Gene Zmuda said the program “will be a nice complement” to an ordinance Toledo City Council approved in December making illegal parking a civil offense and transfers the power to collect fines to the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority.

The parking authority can ask the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to block the registrations of violators with three or more unpaid tickets, preventing the registration from being renewed or transferred.

In addition to the fines, the court will collect a $15 fee imposed by the motor vehicle bureau.

Sylvania Municipal Court, which started a similar program in 1999, tacks on an additional $21 processing fee for each case, Clerk of Court Bonnie Chromik said.

Ms. Chromik said her court has collected $49,660 in fines from February, 2002, through last month.

She said while letters from the court often didn't get people's attention, letters from the BMV did.

“But we have found that it does bring the money into the court,” she said. “We're very pleased with the way it's been working.”

A list of people who owe fines will be available at the clerk's office and online at www.tmc-clerk.com.

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