Council balks at raising court fee to move to new building

By Curtis Riggs | June 10, 2009

Is there a true need?
CAREFREE – Judge K.C. Scull’s plan to finance a move for the Carefree Municipal Court ran into trouble at the June 2 town council meeting. At issue is the plan for a $2 increase in Court Enhancement fees, which are paid by citizens who receive traffic tickets written in Carefree.

Town council members had enough questions about the proposed increase and the move to the Eight Sundial Circle building that they decided to continue the agenda item to the July 7 meeting.

Issues raised by defense attorney Tom Rawls also factored into the continuance. Rawls pointed out documentation about the proposed fee increase did not indicate the funds would go toward technology or security enhancements for the court.

The Carefree town code specifically spells out the fees are to be “used exclusively to enhance the technological, operational and security capabilities of the municipal court, including the operation of a Judicial Collection Program.”

Rawls commented, “If government doesn’t have a need then they shouldn’t take from the public.”

His comments came after Scull had already said he and former Carefree Mayor Wayne Fulcher had recently discussed “replenishing” the town’s Court Enhancement Fund. Scull, and evidently Fulcher, were concerned about the fund being depleted to finance a move to the Eight Sundial Circle building, which will become vacant at the end of the month.

“There has been no increase in Court Enhancement Fees for seven years,” Scull said citing another reason to seek the increase. “This would also bring us dead-even with what the Cave Creek Court charges.”

Scull’s comment about the court fees being paid by “miscreants” could well have fueled Rawls’ concerns about the increase.

Rawls cautioned, “you need to be careful when you ask one segment of the community to fork over more money.”

He reminded the council, “Times are tough for everybody. The people who are paying these fines are suffering as much as anybody.”

Scull, who admitted the number of cases in his court are down 10 percent because of the slow economy prior to the meeting, said the increase could generate between $3,000 and $4,000 annually.

Carefree Town Attorney Tom Chenal said the cover letter Scull submitted about the increase, “should explain in detail how the increase would be in the best interest of the town.”