SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The village government has extended its interlocal agreement with the town of Maplewood to pursue the collection of debts from individuals with outstanding municipal fines.

The amendment aims to collect debts from people who have violated local laws and failed to show up at the shared courthouse to pay their fines.  The collections are to be conducted by Professional Account Management, a debt collection agency based in Milwaukee.

“There is a pretty significant balance of outstanding court fines and delinquencies," village Administrator Barry lewis jr. said at a board meeting in January. "In our case alone it’s close to $300,000.”

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Trustee Howard Levison, chairman of the village Finance and Information Technology Committee, said, “The court doesn’t have the offices or facilities to make the collections themselves, so a third party agency was necessary.”

The agreement targets only those people who have violated municipal laws and have not appeared for their appointed court dates.

“We only want to pursue violators who did not show up at court to pay their fines, and so have open violations and have been issued warrants,” Levison said.

The collected funds will not be credited directly to the village government, but will be disbursed by the court after they have been received by the third party, according to Levison.

“The third party will collect the money and send it to the court, which will deposit the funds in an account and eventually release them to the South Orange government,” he said.

For their efforts, Professional Account Management will receive “a contingency fee of 22% of the unpaid balance for accounts placed” with them, according to the resolution.

The agreement, which is already in effect, had been planned for some time.

“The arrangement had to be approved by both the administrative court and the administrative judge, and will be monitored in the future,” said Levison.  “So it all took about a year to set up.”

According to Levison, Professional Account Management was selected to carry out the collections because “they have proven themselves effective at collecting debts and done their due diligence in following the law”.

While the collection of the debts is not expected to be a quick process, the agreement is crucial in extending the relationship between the townships of South Orange and Maplewood.

“I think it will still be a while before the third party is able to track down the violators and collect on their debts,” said Levison.  “But it’s another important step in taking on our fiduciary responsibilities.”

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.