Judge: $347,000 in Unpaid Fines in Lenoir City

By: Allison Hunt
By: Allison Hunt

Lenoir City (WVLT) - The numbers aren't adding up in the Lenoir City Clerk's Office.

Reports show more than $300,000 worth of fines have gone unpaid.

The city court clerk says the record keeping is inaccurate.

A report shown to WVLT by Judge Terry Vann shows fines for traffic violations that have not been paid for the last 6 years.

However, City Court Clerk Debbie Cook says those records have not been kept up to date.

While looking over the Lenoir City budget, Judge Terry Vann noticed a low number of projected revenues given the number of court cases he's seen.

He started asking questions.

"I had to inquire to find where that number shows, it was not easy, but when I found the particular account I asked for a print out of it and that's when I learned the amount of $347,000," says Judge Vann.

That's $347,000 of what Judge Vann claims are outstanding traffic fines.

"Any action for non-payment would be a responsibility of the clerk," says Judge Vann.

But City Court Clerk Debbie Cook says Vann's numbers are inaccurate.

"The clerk, it's not me, I don't collect them, where the clerk didn't go in there and finish the process," says Cook.

Cook says there are cases where people have paid their fines, but records have not been kept properly.

Cook admits to some unpaid fines, showing WVLT a report different from Vann's, this total $338,000.

"If you were to go through the report and deduct all the people that had paid and all the people he's dismissed, and all the people he'd nollied, that's another term judge uses, it wouldn't be," says Cook.

The matter is obviously generating some ill will between the judge, the clerk and while we were in the judge's courtroom, enter the clerk's husband.

"Terry you know she cannot physically go out, it is not her job to physically go out and try to hunt these people down and get the money back in here," says Ray Cook, Debbie's husband.

"He's alleging that I didn't even try to collect them, I just threw them over in a drawer and forgot about them and that wasn't true," says Cook.

Judge vain says two things need to be put in place, that decision now lies in the hands of city council.

"A procedure for collecting these past due accounts needs to be put in place and also a procedure to make sure they don't accumulate in the future," Judge Vann says.

I spoke to four Lenoir City Council who could not go on camera today, but say they're aware of the issue and will be working to figure it out.

We will of course keep you updated as this story progresses.


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