So, let's work backward. On Sunday, The Dallas Morning News reported that "bail bondsmen owe Dallas County at least $35 million in uncollected default judgments, many dating back decades." Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, himself a former bail bondman, refused to speak to Ed Timms and Kevin Krause. But yesterday, he released a statement refuting some of The News's story and insisting in 2010 "we hired a bond forfeiture subject matter expert to work full-time in our Civil Division to seek forfeiture judgments in current civil cases."
Watkins also said he would be hiring a law firm, yet to determined, "to collect an estimated $35 million in outstanding bond forfeitures owed to the county." At which point County Judge Jenkins issued his own release cautioning the DA to hold up a second: "I wish there was a $35 million dollar pot of gold for the taxpayer," said Jenkins's statement, "but the truth is that the actual amount of legally collectible bond money will be a fraction of that."
Moments ago the county judge sent another release -- this one containing the amount he now says the county's owed in bond forfeitures. That number: "in the range of $6 million dollars or less." The words "task force" and "antiquated I.T system" also appear in the release, which was sent out in advance of a press conference tomorrow morning featuring Jenkins and Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell (I know, if only). Jump, if you can stop from vibrating.
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Dallas County Announces Bond Forfeiture Task Force and Re-Assessment Plan
In the recent weeks there has been much attention placed on the issue of bond forfeiture judgments and the alleged outstanding debt owed to Dallas County taxpayers. Misinformation and subjective communications have led to a gross misinterpretation of the true nature and totality of the bail bond forfeiture challenge facing Dallas County. We have now determined that the actual total dollar amount of bond forfeiture judgments that may actually be legally collectible is in the range of $6 million dollars or less. The proper evaluation of the true total could take many months to complete.
The Dallas County Commissioners Court has been aware of a fundamental problem at the County being an antiquated I.T system. Shortly after taking office, County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins began the County's I.T. system overhaul with the establishment of the I.T. Governance Committee and his immediate appointment of Commissioner Mike Cantrell as its Chair. The Committee has worked vigorously over the past few months to streamline our systems in order to communicate more efficiently interdepartmentally. This represents a massive undertaking for the current Dallas County administration. We expect that a fully operational automated case management system will be online in the next 24-30 months.
Meanwhile, other remedies will be in place to properly monitor the bail bond system going forward. This Commissioners Court is committed to working with the D.A., all elected officials and county staff to ensure all monies owed are collected for the taxpayers.