County commissioners are moving forward with implementing new compliance software, after a state audit revealed Galveston County failed to collect tens of millions of dollars through the state’s Collection Improvement Program.
On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved the county’s purchase of a collections compliance program called iPlow, which was recommended by the Texas Office of Court Administration.
The county’s collections program, which is intended to reduce uncollected court costs, fines and fees, is delinquent by about $56 million for all county, district and justice courts.
Prior to Commissioners Court ordering former director of justice administration Bonita “Bonnie” Quiroga, to manage the program in 2005, the county was only behind about $10 million.
According to several county commissioners, mismanagement of the collections department is one of the main reasons Quiroga was terminated in July 2014.
In addition to not collecting fines, the audit also states proper notices were not sent out informing defendants of their delinquency. Phone numbers and addresses of those defendants were also never verified.
iPlow is designed to streamline collection efforts through automated phone calls and mail notifications, which are sent to past due accounts after 30 and 60 days. A third party law firm then provides assistance to the collections department after the statutory delinquency period to further assist the county in collecting on the fines and fees owed.
The county has six months to bring the program into compliance before it faces potential fines by the state that could directly take over $1 million a year out of the county’s operating budget.