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Committee member questions why judge can’t give city money

Collins says transfer of funds not allowed by state law

 

One Ironton City Councilman asked wants to know why the city’s municipal court judge is sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars when the city is in need of money.

The judge says he wouldn’t mind giving the city money but the state does not allow it and he has plans for it.

At Saturday’s finance committee meeting, Kevin Waldo told the others assembled that Ironton Municipal Court Judge O. Clark Collins has approximately $1.2 million in five separate funds: community service, indigent DUI assistance, computers and technology, special projects and supervision. Waldo contends this money is not being used for anything.

He acknowledged the money is from court fees and fines but he wondered if some of the money could be forwarded to the city government.

“This is money that is not going into the general fund,” Waldo said. “With the kind of problems we have, one department sitting on $1.2 million…”

Waldo pointed out the court gets roughly $500,000 from the city in addition to money collected from the various court fees and fines.

State law requires the city to fund the court at some level. Waldo said he thinks money from court costs should come back to the city but instead the money is going back into these five funds.

“I agree with what you’re saying, but some of those funds are set up by ORC (Ohio Revised Code) and the state is very specific about what the money can be used for. I know the computer fund is used for technology advancement,” fellow committee member Aaron Bollinger said.

“We need to fund ourselves,” Waldo replied.

“Could these computer funds be used to buy computers elsewhere?” committee chairman Mike Lutz wanted to know.

Collins said Wednesday these five funds are required and supervised by the state.

“I tried to give the city $100,000 several years ago and the (state) auditor said I couldn’t do that,” Collins said.

Collins said the money is indeed from various court fees and fines.

“In the past 10-12 years our budget has remained the same. We’ve been consistent and we have not exceeded our budget,” Collins said. “We haven’t gone back to the city and asked them for funds.”

Collins said money in his community service fund, for instance, is used for his work program, which provides workers for a number of Ironton and Coal Grove community needs, such as mowing lawns, cleaning cemeteries, helping set up and then cleaning up after large-scale public events.

“This program doesn’t cost the taxpayers a thing,” Collins said.

Collins said he has plans for the money and has been saving money for that. Collins said he plans to expand his probation office to include a probation officer dedicated solely to drug cases, which have increased steadily over the last few years.

Part of the city center’s fourth floor is being renovated for additional office space, paid for out of these funds with help from his community service workers, a move Collins said has saved $85,000.

“I’d say 80 percent of our cases are somehow drug-related,” Collins said.

Collins said no tax dollars will be spent on either the renovation or the program.