Fine & Fee Chase Ends Up Being Showcase of a State Gross Incompetency Scandal


It seems the State of Rhode Island is feeling poor, despite a new ranking, compiled by the Tax Foundation, which places RI state and local taxes once again mostly in the top quintile or higher. So state officials recently decided to go after unpaid fines and fees, some of them going back decades. The Providence Journal reports on its front page today yesterday, however, that the state is being pretty indiscriminate about who it is dunning — like even people who … well, don’t owe.

[Jennifer Nientimp] mailed the collection agency a response with an explanatory note and a copy of the written AAC dismissal of the ticket. That was the last she heard of that. But now Nientimp has been snagged in another net. Last week, she received one of the 276,000 letters sent out by the state court system demanding that people pay delinquent court fines and fees. The state still insists that she owes $82 for that unpaid ticket.

How did this happen?

Many appear to be left over, [court spokesman Craig N.] Berke acknowledged, from the days of the Administrative Adjudication Court, which The Providence Journal chronicled in a series of news articles in 1998. The newspaper detailed three-day work weeks for highly paid traffic judges, mismanagement, huge work backlogs, alleged violations of citizens’ rights and uncollected fines estimated in 1999 to be as high as $39 million.

Many of which were deemed to be uncollectible. Ouch. Undoubtedly the state would far prefer not to have had a reminder of that massive DMV scandal because of the questions that naturally come to mind, such as: you don’t suppose such gross incompetency will be repeated in other state operations, like RIDOT’s upcoming bridge repair surge, do you?