States Attorney meets with commissioners to work out plan for court fee recovery

Haakon County State’s Attorney Ralph Kemnitz urged the Haakon County Board of Commissioners to formulate a plan that would insure the pay back of court appointed attorney fees.

Kemnitz met with the commissioners at their monthly meeting November 2 to discuss the problem.

The board had previously discussed the loss of dollars due to the lack of repayment. Auditor Shirley Dennis mailed letters to individuals that owed the county money for court appointed attorney fees. She noted some people had reimbursed the county. She added about half of the letters were returned as undeliverable.

Dennis stated, “Our recovery rate is horrible.” Kemnitz said, “We need to develop a mechanic (way) for me to know when they are recovered or not.” He added he can inform the judge that an individual has not fulfilled the terms of his /her probation, by not reimbursing the county, and be held in violation of those terms.

Kemnitz told the commissioners that the probation issue was his lever to get the individuals to reimburse the county for the attorney fees.

“It is a serious problem in the pocketbook of this county,” said Kemnitz. He added Haakon County was not the only one affected by this problem.

Kemnitz stated that the judge appoints an attorney in nearly every case. “One of my problems is I need the data to show the judge to convince them, here is what you are ordering and here is what we are getting back. I want to convince them to appoint attorneys for people that do not make adequate money. I think some judges are appointing attorneys to people who could pay for their own.” He stated he thought the data would show the judges what a burden they are putting on the counties.

Kemnitz added the problem was only going to get worse unless action was taken now. “I think it is costing this county a lot of money. I think it is important to this county and all counties that we make an effort to recover these costs,” Kemnitz said.

Kemnitz noted neither he nor the judge could do anything about the collection of reimbursements unless they knew the fee had not been paid.

He noted if the clerk of courts passed the information on to the county auditor’s office, who then passed the information on to him, the county could recover more money. Kemnitz said a monthly report would be helpful.

Board Chairman Mel Smith instructed Dennis to work out a program to implement the plan.

In other business, the commissioners:

•approved the purchase of a utility shed from Moses Building Center in the amount of $1,503;

•approved a water line crossing for Carolyn Krogman;

•approved for Highway Superintendent Kenny Neville to advertise for an employee;

•approved for Luke Schofield to work part-time as needed;

•approved meeting minutes from October 5 and payment of bills;

•approved for Val Williams to attend a workshop in Deadwood November 18 &19;

•heard County Health Nurse Lynn Buchholz’s quarterly report;

•approved for the county employees and officials to have Friday, Nov. 26, off as a holiday;

•approved a quit claim deed for Baye & Sons for land purchased from the county in 1976;

•noted use of the community room for meetings must be placed on the calender in the auditor’s office;

•heard from County Treasurer Patti Rhodes on delinquent city water charges and action taken by her office;

•voted not to accept Commissioner Darrel Terkildsen’s resignation due to meetings he still has to attend concerning wind energy; and

•approved a supplelment to the budget in the amount of $12,900 for the purchase of a pickup for the highway department.