Tidwell Campaign Says Collection Efforts Have Saved Millions Of Taxpayer Dollars

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mike Loftin, an official of the Gwen Tidwell campaign said, "In her 20-year tenure as Criminal Court clerk, her administrative innovations have enhanced the office's efficiency and effectiveness, two good reasons for voters to re-elect her on Aug. 7."

He said, "County taxpayers have already benefitted from one Tidwell accomplishment. When county commissioners approved the 2015 budget, that became the fifteenth fiscal year that she has not taken an appropriation for staff salaries. Instead, those salaries were paid with funds generated by state-mandated fees the office charges in all criminal court cases. That has saved taxpayers more than $6 million -- money available for other county services, including public education and public safety.

"Her administrative skills have improved the office's service to the public, law enforcement, and attorneys, thereby lowering the office's operating costs. Case in point, her realization of how technology could make the office more customer- and taxpayer-friendly.

"She led the way in computerizing the office, enabling the staff to handle more efficiently the workload of more than 50,000 new criminal cases filed every. And since criminal court records were digitized, the sheriff, police departments, attorney general, public defender and local, state and federal probation offices have been able to access them without first having to contact the clerk's office.

"Further, the records are now online, giving media organizations accurate information about criminal cases, and computers are available at the office for citizens wishing to check records. (By law, permanent official records are kept on paper.)

"When Ms. Tidwell took office in 1994 she found there was no system for collecting fees charged in criminal cases. She was the first to set up a delinquent collections department that is now self-sustaining and self-funded. The office has collected more than $70 million in fees for the state and local governments. And to make collections easier, years ago she put in place a system that allows defendants to pay fees by credit card."

"Collecting money from convicted criminals is not easy," Ms. Tidwell said. "They are often in prison and even after they've been released are usually unemployed, and sometimes unemployable. But our efforts have not only saved millions of tax dollars from being spent in my office, they've also resulted in tens of millions of dollars collected for use in many other offices."


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