We knew this was coming. The North Texas Tollway Authority kind of telegraphed it when the agency announced that some 6,000 of its top scofflaws would be referred to an outside law firm for possible litigation over their toll-ignoring ways. And now, it's here.
The NTTA filed more than a dozen civil lawsuits yesterday in Dallas County seeking to collect more than half a million dollars. One assumes that more are on the way, but for now, the lucky, soon-to-be-served drivers are, in alphabetical order:
Rickey B Baldwin, Richardson - $3,133.13 Yani Banga, Garland - $26,701.84 Deniece Barrett - $40,935.76 Brandon Michael Bay - $66,552.24 Marissa Centilli, Little Elm - $65,015.43 Marvin Frair, Allen - $19,311.20 Shelcia Manson, Frisco - $23,588.14 Jacob McAleer, Corinth - $25,073.73 Gregory Simpson, Dallas - $23,816.47 Jeffrey West, Rockwall - $81,503.45 Tammy Williams, Little Elm - $72,771.63 Patrick Wolfe, Jr., Lake Dallas - $107,986.83 Billy Woods, Allen - $6,241.09
How these particular individuals were plucked from the NTTA's still mammoth, 2,144-page list of top violators, seeing as only two of them register in the agency's top 100, is a mystery. Merely the tip of the iceberg, it's safe to say.
We've asked NTTA spokesman Michael Rey for an update on how the tougher approach to toll violators, which could soon include the power to block vehicle registrations, is playing out. We'll update when we hear back.
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Update at 2:06 p.m.: NTTA's efforts can probably be qualified as a success. Rey says that, since the agency began its scofflaw list, 12,808 debtors have paid or made payment agreements, bringing in $2.8 million so far.
Update at 2:18 p.m.: Rey followed up with a second email: "We chose the names randomly and from all levels of the list so as to not favor any one of the six firms. Firms have been contacting and in some cases negotiating with people assigned to them."
Update at 3:39 p.m.: Another followup from Rey:
The NTTA's collections law firms have filed approximately 75 cases as of the end of February. We are really in the beginning stages and expect the number of lawsuits to increase significantly. The decision to file is based on whether filing a lawsuit is in the NTTA's best financial interest.
The NTTA encourages those who are contacted by law firms to work out a settlement. Toll violators are also subject to criminal citations. Ultimately, everybody on the list should contact NTTA to resolve outstanding toll violations. Collections lawsuits are only one part of the NTTA's toll enforcement effort. The NTTA is currently asking the state legislature to block the vehicle registration for an owner who has a significant amount of outstanding tolls.