Dade County, Ga., officials are debating how much bail money local bonding companies owe for suspects who skirted court and whether the county is out nearly $250,000.
The Lookout Mountain District Attorney's Office reported about $243,000 hasn't been collected, based on court records, County Executive Ted Rumley said, and that ignited an investigation into how much money the sheriff's office has failed to collect on forfeited bonds.
The county has three bonding companies and, when a suspect doesn't show up in court, prosecutors ask the judge to issue a bench warrant for the suspect and a bond forfeiture, which technically gives the bonding company 120 to 150 days to find the suspect or pay the money.
Rumley said County Attorney Robin Rogers and Sheriff Patrick Cannon are figuring out the exact amount owed.
The county then will work with the sheriff's office to obtain the money because "that's a tremendous amount of money" for a small county like Dade, he said.
But Cannon said he sees politics at work, and he calculated that two of the three bonding companies, Gary's Bonding and Dade Bail Bonds, only owe $67,000 since 2009. Some of the discrepancies in the records were from documents that haven't been updated after the sheriff's office collected money from two bonding companies that went out of business when he took office, Cannon said.
"It's just a political ploy to make the sheriff's office look bad," he said.
Cannon was defeated last summer in a runoff election against Republican challenger Ray Cross. Cross is running against former Sheriff Phil Street for the top law enforcement spot.
Cannon said the bond forfeitures were brought up in debates during the campaign.
Cross said he may have talked briefly about money that wasn't being collected, but it wasn't a major part of his campaign.
Cannon said he and Rogers met with representatives of the three bonding companies and gave them four weeks to search their records to see if there are any fortified bonds that can be collected. But the process is complicated because money can't be collected for suspects in jail in another jurisdiction or in certain other circumstances, he said.
Cannon also questions why the bond forfeitures weren't brought to his attention first because he is the one responsible for collecting the money, not county officials.
Margie Cameron, a district attorney's office administrative assistant, said the office's normal practice is to give forfeited bonds to the county attorney.
Rogers didn't return calls seeking comment.
Officials at Gary's Bonding couldn't be reached, and an employee with Dade Bail Bonds declined comment.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...