04.29.08

Cedar Park Municipal Court Overcharged Thousand$

Posted in Cedar Park, Williamson County at 11:19 am by wcnews

The AAS reported last week that Cedar Park court overcharged residents, audit finds.

Cedar Park officials will refund money to residents and to the state after discovering a series of administrative errors and overcharges at the municipal court dating to at least 2004.

The overcharges for fines range from $2 to $120, said Margaret Robbins, a consultant with Harden and Robbins LLC, which the city hired in February to audit its court records. Robbins said her investigation has found about $20,000 in overcharges from part of 2005 and part of 2006.

The city began investigating the errors in June 2006 after a clerk complained about some procedures and overcharges at the court, where people resolve Class C misdemeanors, including traffic fines.

An initial outside investigation by attorney Susan Morrison of Austin found that court clerks had been enhancing charges for failure to maintain insurance if the driver had been previously charged with the same offense. Only a prosecutor is allowed to enhance charges. The report also found that clerks were doubling fines for violations in construction zones that weren’t supposed to be doubled.

The previous court administrator, Sandra Thomas, was fired in October 2006 because of the administrative mistakes, city officials said. April Christensen, who replaced her last year, found that some defendants who failed to appear in court were being charged above the state maximum for that violation.

No one was jailed improperly because of the mistakes, officials said.

If all else fails blame the computer:

Robbins also found that court software had charged defendants either too much or too little for court costs. She said such mistakes are common because the software is not always up to date with current laws.

KEYE-TV has a little different take (w/video):

You may have heard the saying “pay the fine or do the time” when it comes to unpaid traffic tickets, but in Cedar Park some people are paying fines and doing time for fines they shouldn’t owe.

If you think you may have been caught up in this you can contact the Cedar Park Municipal Court here.
There is this interesting comment to the AAS article:

What makes them think they are only liable for the flat amount that they overcharged? Section 118.801 of the Texas Local government code “An officer named in this chapter who, in bad faith, demands and receives a higher fee than authorized under this chapter or a fee that is not authorized under this chapter is liable to the aggrieved person for four times the amount unlawfully demanded and received.

That could get expensive.

2 Comments »

  1. FedUp said,

    April 29, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Wake Up people! If this is going on in a somewhat small city, no telling what the county has done and is doing with “fines”. Just one word….AUDIT!
    Oh wait, that’s what the $1mil PR firm is for. We will never know because the media only believes what the county tells them to believe.

    Nothing will ever change as long as these people are in the posistion they are in. We already know the law dosen’t work against them. VOTE THEM OUT!

  2. WilcoVoter said,

    June 25, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Assuming that the report is correct, that Cedar Park was breaking the law as reported by the Austin television channel, can the county attorney prosecute the individuals responsible [e.g., the mayor and the chief of police] for the alledged illegal actions? And if the county attorney declines to do anything [goog ole boys rule], why not the attorney general of Texas?

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