Monday, September 16, 2013

Court contract skipped bid process

Joy McCroskey
Three years ago, Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey hired a private collection agency to go after some $18 million in outstanding fines, fees and restitution owed to the county.

The move, however, violated state law and county code because McCroskey didn’t competitively bid out the service.

Now, local leaders are negotiating with a new company to oversee collections for her office, which includes Fourth Circuit Court, General Sessions and Criminal Court.

McCroskey said she didn’t intentionally do anything wrong and that then-Law Director Bill Lockett told her it was OK to hire the firm.

“I felt like I did what I needed to do when I went to the law director,” she said. “I had no idea that I had to do anything else. When the law director tells you that you can do it, then what else is there? He told me that since it only involved my office I could do it.”

State law says that criminal court clerks who use private firms to collect fines must ask the county purchasing department where they work to “utilize normal competitive bidding procedures applicable to the county to select and retain the agent.”

County code says officials must award contracts that exceed $10,000 through competitive sealed bidding. Such contracts also must be approved by the law department and signed by the county mayor.

McCroskey, though, oversaw the process herself. She reached out only to Solutia Revenue Recovery, and agreed to a contract put together by the firm.

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