An administrative fee?

To The Sun:

America is a country of laws written by elected public officials. There are 50 United States of which Kansas is the 34th admitted to the union on Jan. 29, 1861. In Kansas, Labette County is one of 105 counties and Parsons is one of 628 cities. Parsons also has written laws (the Municipal Code Book for Parsons is an organized compilation of city ordinances, last updated in 2010) by the city commission, elected public officials. Unfortunately, Parsons also has “administrative fees-unspecified,” which are not laws or city ordinances created and written by the city commission, but are created to allow the city’s Municipal Court to balance the city’s budget by charging citizens after a case has been dismissed when a citizen is not guilty of an offense.

“An administrative fee-unspecified” means the fee is not a city ordinance/law in any legal sense. However, if the “administrative fee” is not paid, the state will suspend a citizen’s driver’s license. An “administrative fee” is not found anywhere in the Municipal Code for Parsons.

Is an administrative fee legal?

I believe that the city commission was unaware of this “administrative fee” when I brought it to their attention at the meeting on Monday. A city employee took it upon himself to impose this “administrative fee” upon the public to improve the city’s budget. (When the budget is balanced then salary increases are more likely. This “administrative fee” to balance the budget benefits the employee more than the general public.)

This “administrative fee” was explained and justified as being because a police officer worked to write the ticket and then the police worked again when a police officer performed a required checked to see if the repair was made in the seven-day period allowed. However, when a citizen pays taxes didn’t they also pay for the police to “serve and protect”? Shouldn’t the police informing a citizen of a minor brake light problem be considered a service? Why are citizens required to pay twice for minor auto problems that are beyond the driver’s control?

Automobiles are not perfect machines. Frequently they will have electrical/mechanical problems and failures beyond your control. For example, a passenger side brake light may fail to work even though the passenger side red tail light is still working — as are two other brake lights. If you are given a traffic citation with a seven-day fix, the fine is $50 and the court fee is $75 (spelled out in the Municipal Code for Parsons Chapter 32) if found guilty of not fixing the malfunction in seven days. If fixed in seven days you are not guilty of an offense and the fine and court fee are dismissed. However, in Parsons because the police provided a service you must still pay an “administrative fee.” This should not be acceptable to the taxpaying and voting citizens of Parsons. But if this fee (an indirect tax) is acceptable to the public the city commission should include this “administrative fee” as a tax in the municipal code book for Parsons and make it legal.

Are you 100 percent confident that your car does not have a very minor electrical/mechanical problem that may result in a police officer giving you a citation for a seven-day fix? This  problem could already exist or it may start the next time you start your car or it may not start until a police officer has been following you for several blocks. Who knows when this type of problem starts? You, the driver of a car, have no control over when a minor electrical/mechanical problem may start. That is why you are not guilty of an offense until you fail to have the problem corrected in the seven-day fix period. Taxpaying citizens should not have to pay “an administrative fee” for minor auto problems beyond their control. The city’s budget should be balanced by more appropriate means.

This “administrative fee” is a slippery slope. The police are working and providing a service when they intervene in, for example, a domestic disturbance. How long will it be before a city employee decides to improve the city’s budget by charging for police 
involvement, in court, in a domestic disturbance or any other assistance or interaction the police may have with the public? The police should welcome the opportunity to interact with the public in a positive way and provide both “service and 
protection” to the public without an additional charge for this service because taxpayers have already paid for the service. — ALPHONSO JOHNSON, Parsons

Editor’s Note: City Attorney Ross Albertini believes the administrative fee is legal based on the city’s charter ordinance that the city commission passed in 2003. The Sun plans on publishing a story that discusses fix-it tickets next week.

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