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Carbon debates hiring collection agency

A motion to hire a third-party collection agency for the Carbon County clerk of courts office died for lack of a second after a motion to table the action failed due to a split vote.

On Thursday, Commissioners Rocky Ahner and Chris Lukasevich split votes on tabling a motion to hire Penn Credit Corporation to assist with the collection of costs, fines and restitution on delinquent accounts after the clerk of court’s collection division has exhausted all resources to collect outstanding debts.

Ahner made the motion to table the matter until this Thursday so that he could obtain more information and clarification on the action. Lukasevich seconded the motion for discussion purposes but voted no to table the matter after the discussion was held.

Ahner voiced his concern for the 25 percent fee that would be added to the outstanding debt total per case.

“I always had an issue with things where someone comes in from an outside source and they’re charging above when these people, if their debt is $1,000 or $10,000, is tacked on to people who can’t pay it in the first place,” he said. “There’s got to be some kind of other solution here. … I’m not really comfortable on voting on this before I have more clarification on this.”

Lukasevich asked Tyra Boni, clerk of courts, to explain the process that would take place regarding collections and going to the third-party vendor.

He pointed out that this would only take place after the collection division exhausted all resources to collect the outstanding debt.

Boni said that the collections division has been “extremely successful,” collecting $19 million of the $25 million that was outstanding to the county. Payment plans have been set up for a number of delinquent accounts.

But for those who are severely delinquent, the division sends out three delinquency letters of fines owed to the victims, county and taxpayers.

“As per a court order, those defendants need to pay,” Boni said, adding that while she sympathizes with them, her office makes every effort to work with the individuals to set up payment plans that can meet their needs while satisfying their debt.

She stressed that the people going to Penn Credit would be those who have not responded to the letters that have been sent and have been delinquent for years.

“So every day we delay, someone is suffering, either the county taxpayer, or the victims or county government,” Lukasevich said of the outstanding $6.5 million, to which Boni replied, “Correct.”

Ahner again said he understands where Boni is coming from, but he just wants more information to be able to make a better-informed decision.

Prior to the vote, Sydney Wernett, Boni’s challenger for the clerk of courts position in the November election, spoke out against Penn Credit, saying that the company is “ineffective and inefficient” and is not reputable.

She cited a recent class-action lawsuit against the company, in which Penn Credit will pay $4.6 million in the settlement.

The vote to table then ended in a tie with Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein absent and a second motion to pass the action dying for lack of a second.

Ahner told Boni that just because the motions failed, doesn’t mean that she can’t come back to the next meeting with the motion again.