In the midst of Kerrigan’s battle to get the records, Sink sent a letter to the state’s 67 Circuit Clerks suggesting she needed help from the clerks to be sure Florida was collecting unpaid judgments from bondsmen.
“Working together we can ensure that all unpaid forfeitures are satisfied for the benefit of all Floridians,’’ Sink wrote.
Still, the problem continued, Kerrigan says. The insurance companies that failed to pay judgments were allowed to continue writing bonds.
Kerrigan has been on a crusade attempting to find someone who will crack down on the bondsmen who don’t pay judgments. In the past year he’s met with representatives of Gov. Rick Scott, Sink, Atwater, the Florida Senate and others in an attempt to get someone interested in the problem.
After Atwater ordered some audits, Leon County Circuit Clerk Bob Inzer volunteered his operation for review. A preliminary audit released to the Tampa Bay Times found no loss of state revenue but did identify a number of instances where the clerk failed to immediately take action against the bonding company.
Inzer said court rules provide an additional five days to act and some delays are encountered because of staff shortages and other budget constraints. Statewide budget cuts of as much as 25 percent have forced clerks to give priority to criminal cases.
Alexis Lambert, spokeswoman for Atwater, said the agency has created a process for tracking bail bond judgments received from court clerks and will seek proof of payment from surety companies in cases where they have been unable to determine whether a judgment was paid.
Since installing the rules the state has formally disciplined two of 11 agents who failed to satisfy judgments on time, Lambert said. The agents have been ordered to pay $25,794 in restitution and fines totaling $4,500. She noted that the agency only has jurisdiction over the agents, not the insurance companies.
Tampa Bay Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.