Pamela J. McGuire, Will County Circuit Clerk
14 West Jefferson St.-Joliet, Illinois 60432
For More Information contact:
Pam McGuire, Circuit Clerk Lynette Shea,
JOLIET — Will County Circuit Clerk Pam McGuire reports that her office has retrieved more than $1.25 million in revenue for Will County and several of its municipalities thanks to a program recently enacted by her office in partnership with Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and Will County Executive Larry Walsh.
The state’s attorney and the circuit clerk entered into a contract with Harris and Harris Ltd. and the law offices of Arnold Scott Harris to collect past-due court fines and fees owed by criminal defendants and ordinance violators. County Executive Walsh and his staff first brought the proposal to hire a collections agency to the Will County Board in the spring of 2005.
The circuit clerk’s office worked with Harris and Harris during the first months of 2007 to fine-tune the collections program before bringing it on line May 24, 2007. In the first seven months, the program has collected $1,252,992.60. Prior to enacting this program, the debts would have gone uncollected.
Scofflaws also must pay all the costs associated with the collection process. The county incurs no costs for operating the program. Prior to enacting this program, these debts would have gone uncollected.
“It is a get-tough answer to a long-standing problem,” Circuit Clerk McGuire stated. “There are millions of dollars in past-due court debts dating back several decades. In 2005 alone, convicted defendants attempted to ignore nearly $1.7 million in fees and fines”
McGuire reports that Will County received $557,130 in revenue through the program. Other municipalities also have benefited, among them: Bolingbrook, $58,413; Joliet, $135,095; Plainfield, $30,960; and the Village of Romeoville $40,501.
“This collection effort is succeeding on two key fronts,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “It already has captured significant funding for Will County and its municipalities at a time when all budgets are tight. In addition, we are sending a message to defendants in Will County that they no longer can simply refuse to pay their fines and fees without consequence. Our expectation is that more people will begin paying on time.”
County Executive Walsh said the collections program demonstrates how communication and cooperation between several of the county’s top officials is benefiting taxpayers.
“It’s all about accountability and collaboration for the benefit of Will County,” Walsh said. “Because of these factors, along with the hard work of the Circuit Clerk’s Office, this initiative is seeing great success. I’m extremely pleased by the program’s outcome so far. The great thing is that by collecting more than $1million in past-due debts, the county and local municipalities are able to enjoy additional funding for their budgets without asking our citizens for a tax increase.”
McGuire said getting the program off the ground in her office required a great deal of teamwork on the part of her staff.
“This collection effort has required a massive effort by the Circuit Clerk’s office”, McGuire explained. “I want to thank the hard work and effort of my computer staff, managers, Finance Division and numerous clerks in undertaking this collection initiative. They have worked extra hours while still performing their daily functions with an exploding caseload, maintaining excellent customer service and efficiencies during this process”.
Harris and Harris was selected as the collections agency last year for numerous reasons:
- The company currently provides this service for circuit clerks in both Cook and DuPage counties and comes highly recommended by officials from both counties.
- The collections business is affiliated with a respected Chicago legal firm, thereby ensuring a legal and ethical approach to retrieving past-due debts.
- The contract allows for the monitoring of collections activities over the Internet in real time, allowing Will County officials to make certain the county is being professionally represented and that those who are contacted about past-due debts are treated respectfully.
- Harris and Harris is in the Chicago area. All other candidates were based out-of-state.
- The team of professionals designated by Harris and Harris to service the contract exhibited an extensive background of experience and knowledge.
The company helped to draft recent state legislation that enabled counties to add a small fee on top of past-due fines or judgments for collections purposes. The company is paid through the fee, which means local governments receive 100 percent of any past-due money that is collected.
In addition to the $1.25 million captured through the collection process, the Circuit Clerk’s Office has generated an additional $485,414.94 in interest revenue in FY2007 for the County of Will.
McGuire, Glasgow and Walsh all noted that the majority of the people who are fined by our local courts pay their debts promptly. This program is necessary to collect fines from those who attempt to shirk their court-ordered financial obligations.