The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.
Published October 9, 2019
Camdenton transfers their city court to county
CAMDENTON – Like many other cities in the state, Camdenton voted last week to transfer the city’s Municipal Court and its cases to the Camden County 26th Circuit Court Associate Division.
The reasons for this are many but the bottom line, according to the City Attorney Phil Morgan, is new state laws have made it harder for smaller courts to continue.
City Administrator Jeff Hancock detailed the problems in a report to the Board of Aldermen last week.
“The operating environment for municipal courts in Missouri has changed a great deal due to a series of state legislative actions and Supreme Court rule changes over the past two years,” Hancock said in his report. “Many of these changes resulted from legislative reaction to review of the operations of municipal court operations in St. Louis County, including the operations of the City of Ferguson Municipal Court.”
Changes mandated by two bills (SB 5 and SB 572) have made it much more difficult for Camdenton and other small communities to operate a separate municipal court, Hancock stated.
Some of the major changes enacted are:
• Prohibition on police officers serving the court in any capacity requiring hiring of a separate civilian bailiff
• Severe restrictions on ability of the municipal court clerk to participate in any other city business with accompanying restriction on city employees assisting with court business
• Extensive new financial and administrative reporting requirements
• Requirement for separate court administrative facilities
• Requirement to ensure that court offices are open a minimum of 32 hours per week
• Requirement for municipal courts to create and maintain an online docket system, that is like the Case Net system maintained by the Circuit and District court systems
What this breaks down to is a massive cost increase for the cities who wish to continue their own court system.
Currently city hall is used for the courtroom. Under the new rules the city would have to buy or build another building specifically for the court and the court offices would have to be open at least 32 hours a week.
That would entail hiring new personnel including a bailiff and security officers, since city police could not be used.
Currently anyone in the state can go online and search the Missouri Courts Case Net site and search for information on court cases but city cases are not on that system.
The new law would require cities who want to keep their courts to come up with a system like that which would cost Camdenton even more money.
Turning all this over to the county court does not mean the city will lose any income or authority.
Hancock said the city staff has been looking into the matter for some time and came to the following conclusions:
• Court cases would continue to be municipal cases related to violations of municipal ordinances (City Code).
• Adoption and enforcement authority for City Code violations would remain fully with the City of Camdenton.
• There would not be any changes to the City Administrative or Criminal Code. The Board of Aldermen would continue to have full authority to amend the City Code, as needed.
• No change in police activities, policies or procedures. The Police Department would continue to enforce City Code/Ordinances with no change in the manner that a city general summons (ticket) for a municipal offense is written and enforced.
• The Mayor and Board of Aldermen would continue to have full oversight and authority over the Police Department through the Chief of Police.
• All fees and fines would continue to be collected and forwarded under the existing distribution formula. Court costs would be distributed to the Court, fines and penalties would continue to be distributed to the City, and fees for the Victim’s Fund, the Peace Officer Training Fund and the Sheriffs Retirement Fund would continue to be collected and disbursed in the current manner.
• The Municipal Court prosecutor would continue to be employed by the city. No changes to municipal prosecutor staff, responsibilities or duties.
The change will also make it a bit easier for the city and it will save them money. It was estimated that the first year savings will be slightly over $7,000. Eventually the current city Municipal Court Administrator will retire and that will save the city an estimated $60,000 annually.
Some aspects of the change are positive and eases the burden of the city.
• Municipal cases would be heard by an Associate Circuit Court judge.
• Court will be held downtown in the courtrooms at the County Courthouse.
• Circuit Court will provide Court Clerk and Bailiff staff.
• Courthouse staff would provide building and court security.
• Circuit Court will fund judge, clerk, bailiff and security positions.
• Circuit Court will be responsible for all court records and warrants
• Municipal Court will be held during normal weekday business hours.
• Court costs for municipal cases would change to be consistent with Circuit Court costs.
The Board approved both readings of the bill transferring the court.
In other business at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting:
• Approved both readings of Amendments to the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Operating Budget
• Approved both reading adding a stop sign to Fourth Street and Hickory.
The reasoning for this was explained in a written report to the board and has to do with safety and potential prevention of an accident.
“Before Lake Park opened in 2016, Fourth Street ended and made a 90-degree corner onto Hickory. When Lake Park was developed, their driveway was connected to Fourth Street in a manner that gives the appearance that Fourth Street just continues when in fact it is not a city street but a private driveway. This has resulted in many vehicles not slowing or yielding to Hickory traffic when in fact Hickory vehicles have the right of way.
“The manager at Bristol Manner confirmed the area is confusing; that she thought it was an extension of Fourth Street and admitted there had been some near-crashes.”
• Approved both readings amending the city code in reference to Comp Time accrual as well as a policy on how vacation is paid out upon resignation or retirement.
• Approved both readings executing an Agreement of Consulting Services with Golder Associates, Inc for Supplemental Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study Activities at the Former Hulett Lagoon
• Approved a proposal with Heritage Bank for a cost share to replace/repair a sidewalk.
This will be a 50/50 cost share. Heritage Bank representative K. Clayton Rogers was present at last week’s meeting and explained the proposal in a letter to the board.
“The subject sidewalk project is approximately 140’, running from the corner of SE Court Circle and Camden Ave down Camden Ave or along the backside of our property. Heritage Bank of the Ozarks recently replaced the southern portion of this sidewalk in locating our manhole cover and storm water drainpipe to the corner of Camden Ave and Illinois St.
“The remaining sidewalk on Camden Ave between SE Court Circle and Illinois St needs replacement. Most of the 140’ of existing sidewalk is nearly unusable for pedestrian traffic due to the broken and unlevel condition of the existing concrete.”
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