KCMO Municipal Court still not collecting thousands of dollars, thanks to technology glitch

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City's Municipal Court is still not collecting thousands of dollars of revenue, thanks to a computer glitch that is taking longer than anticipated to correct.

When someone uses a bondsman to get out of jail, the company is on the hook for the full bond amount if the defendant doesn't show up for court and can't be located.

But as 41 Action News first reported last September, court officials have not been collecting that money since Kansas City implemented a new paperless technology in August, 2011.

Court officials originally told 41 Action News a fix was in the works and the solution would be in place by the beginning of 2013. However, upon following up, 41 Action News learned the problem will not be completely corrected until this summer.

That means it will likely be about two years where Kansas City does not collect any bond forfeiture revenue. According to records reviewed by 41 Action News, the city received an annual average of $162,000 in the four years prior to the paperless transition.

City spokesman Mike Schumacher said roughly $15,000 will be paid to the Regional Justice Information Services (REJIS) to make the new system compatible with the bonding process. There is also a dedicated IT employee working directly with the software vendor on the issue, he said.

So why has it taken so long to fix the problem?

"We now have a court administrator hired and in place that is aware of this issue and it is number one on the list to be addressed," Schumacher said. "We feel these process improvements will allow this change, as well as any possible future changes, to be completed in a timely manner."

City officials also have reiterated that they intend to retroactively collect the bond forfeiture revenue when the fix is in place.

During a September interview with 41 Action News, Presiding Judge Ardie Bland called it "revenue delayed but not denied."

However, folks in the bonding industry have expressed skepticism about whether Kansas City will have the needed documentation and resources to achieve that goal.

Councilman John Sharp, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, agreed that it has taken a long time to correct the glitch. But he said overall, the switch to paperless technology has saved Kansas City a lot of money.

"Let's remember, we lost plenty of money before, when you couldn't read tickets," Sharp said. "We lost money before, when the tickets got lost. We lost money before, because we had so many employees over there having to shuffle these mountains of paperwork."

City Auditor Gary White is currently setting the parameters for an audit of the Municipal Court, although he told 41 Action News the bond forfeiture issue likely won't be included in his report because city officials are already aware of it.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Facebook. 

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