By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Dade has now
concluded lengthy collections negotiations with two jail bail bonding companies
that owed the county for unpaid bond forfeitures dating back to 2005, but
County Executive and Commission Chairman Ted Rumley admitted Friday that
revenues realized from the efforts have been less than stellar.
“It wasn’t near what we thought it would be,”
When the local
district attorney’s office brought the forfeitures to Rumley’s attention last
summer as a neglected source of potential receivables, FIFA (fieri facias)
liens at the county courthouse showed bond forfeitures in the amount of
$216,868,90 for Gary’s Bail Bonding; $50,405 for Brock Bonding, an associated
company that preceded Gary’s; and $46,639.60 for Dade County Bail Bonds.
But on Friday,
after months of examination, the total collected by the county amounted to just
$23,774.65. County Clerk Don Townsend had in hand a check for $17,667.65 from
Gary’s/Brock’s, and County Attorney Robin Rogers reported by speakerphone to
the commission office he had collected another $6,107 from Dade County Bail
Why so little?
Bail bond companies promise to pay the county the bail amount judges set on
defendants accused of crimes should they fail to report back for trial. They
make their profit by charging the defendants a percentage of the bond, and they
are then responsible for either producing the defendants for their court dates
or making good on the bond.
had earlier explained, though, that the companies are seldom expected to pay
the face value of the bond. Rather, he said, the governing statute dictates
some percentage to be paid depending on when or if the bonding company does
produce the bond skipper.
But in Dade,
neither of the county clerks who had served the county for the past 16 years
remembered any amount at all ever having been paid as a bond forfeiture. Nor
could a longtime auditor recall seeing forfeitures showing up as revenue for
Dade or for any county she reviewed in the region.
In any case,
Rogers had been conferring with outgoing Sheriff Patrick Cannon and his staff
since this fall as to what forfeitures were owed from which case during the
eight years of Cannon’s tenure. At the Dade County Commission’s November
meeting, Rogers reported that the sheriff was “working hard” to determine how
much was owed and said he hoped to have the matter wrapped up by the December
At the December
meeting, Rogers said that that hadn’t happened but that he and the sheriff were
aiming for the end of the year, when Cannon was to leave office in favor of new
Sheriff Ray Cross, who defeated him in this summer’s Republican primary.
Finally, at the
commission’s January meeting on Thursday, Rogers told the commissioners the
matter had in fact been closed except for a judge’s signature; and on Friday he
explained the process he and the sheriff’s department had used to come up with
“In a lot of
these cases, the person was already incarcerated, not necessarily in Dade
County, in fact, usually not in Dade County but in other prisons or jails in
the region,” said Rogers. “Those cases in which the defendant was actually
already incarcerated, we dismissed those, because what had happened apparently
is there was a failure of communication regarding the status of the person.”
“There were additional cases, however, in which the person was not incarcerated
at the time the absolute judgment was entered but was picked up within either
120 days following the entry of judgment absolute, in which the bonding company
was liable for five percent of the absolute judgment; or within two years of
the absolute judgment, in which case the bonding company was responsible for 50
percent. There were other cases in which they were responsible for the full
absolute” is a judge’s ruling against a bonding company when it has not
produced a bonded defendant and has not come before the judge within a set
number of months afterward to explain why not.
These judgments trigger the entry of the FIFAs at the courthouse.
though, had in this case triggered no further action in their turn; despite the
liens against them, the bondsmen had continued to do business with the county
as usual. The unpaid forfeitures came to light only after they emerged as a
campaign issue during 2012’s hotly contested sheriff’s race.
that tracking down what was due from which bondsmen for what defendant in which
case had been a lot of work, but he said in the ordinary way of things it isn’t
his job. “I’ll be willing to assist either the DA or the sheriff’s department
any way they want me to, but in most counties, the county attorney is not
particularly involved in the situation,” he said.
Whose job it
is, though, is harder to say. “This needs to be followed up on,” said Rogers.
“I haven’t had a discussion with Sheriff Cross to see how he wants to handle
this, but certainly it needs to be followed up by somebody.”
has indicated he will discuss his plans in this regard with the Sentinel later.
though, the situation may already have simplified itself: Ted Rumley said Dade
County Bail Bonds was calling it quits.
Tommy Ford] paid up and pulled out,” said Rumley. “He told Ray that he wasn’t
interested in bonding in Dade County anymore, it wasn’t profitable.”
That leaves the
field so far to only Gary’s Bonding. A third company, Trenton Bonding, is
qualified to bond in Dade County and maintains the required $30,000 guaranty in
escrow to do so, but Rumley says it has historically remained inactive. He said
he had no idea why.
companies serve a county by permission of its sheriff. Sheriff Cross, who took
office only last week, has so far announced no plans to permit new bondsmen in