Missouri State Auditor Defunds Speed Trap City
A notorious Missouri speed trap town was busted Wednesday by the state auditor for violating the law. Randolph, Missouri has a population of just 47 people, but the police department last year dished out 3132 fines — nearly all speeding tickets issued to motorists passing through on Highway 210. A formal examination of the city’s book uncovered the fact that Randolph made more than thirty-five percent of its revenue from freeway traffic ticket, in violation of the Macks Creek law, an anti-speed trap statute named for a town that went bankrupt after its ability to issue speeding tickets was revoked.
Using the Missouri Vehicle Stops Annual Report filed with the attorney general’s office, the audit determined that Randolph issued 83 percent of its tickets on a state or federal highway. The auditor took a sampling of 265 tickets and found that 73 percent were issued on the types of roads that triggered the law. In 2009, Randolph’s general fund revenue was $270,043, meaning that it could issue no more than $94,515 in traffic tickets under the law, but the city issued an estimated $134,000 to $148,000 in freeway tickets — up to $53,000 more than allowed. The exact number is uncertain because the city did not bother to keep accurate records.
In August last year, the municipal court clerk resigned, leaving the town with no replacement until this January. When temporary clerks were brought in to fill the need, much of the required paperwork was overlooked. With only one court employee, there was no oversight and the books were rarely balanced.
“To safeguard against possible loss or misuse of funds, internal controls should provide reasonable assurance that all transactions are accounted for properly and assets are adequately safeguarded,” state Auditor Susan Montee wrote in her report. “Internal controls could be improved by segregating duties to the extent possible. If proper segregation of duties is not possible, an independent review of the work performed by the court clerk is necessary.”
Because of the accounting backlog, whenever a driver failed to pay a citation it was just thrown into a box that has now grown to contain six hundred tickets. No action was taken against those who did not pay. The police department also failed to log tickets and were unable to locate records for 38 percent of citations that the auditor had been examining.
The municipal judge for Randolph has agreed to use new computer software to track the number of tickets issued to ensure the speed trap law is not violated again. The mayor and city attorney agreed to implement all of the recommendations of the state auditor. The revenue collected in excess of the law will be taken out of the general fund and distributed to the school system.
A copy of the audit is available in a 210k PDF file at the source link below.
Audit of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, City of Randolph (Missouri State Auditor, 9/15/2010)
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This is a business opportunity. There must be lots of tiny villages whose revenues are constrained by this kind of law. Cut a deal with them to set up a letterbox company that pays lots of tax to boost the city's revenue, and receives the same amount in phony contracts (say to run a promotional website for the town, to attract more motorists...) in return, plus a cut of the additional traffic ticket revenue being leveraged.
Is anyone really surprised by this? Really?