Franklin County Courthouse

According to court records, the Franklin County Municipal Court processed more than 6,000 tickets written by sheriff’s deputies in 2019, but projected revenues fell short by just under $90,000.

The amount expected to be taken in by the court in 2019 was $734,075, but the actual amount collected was $646,108, according to county revenue statements.

Each year, the projected revenue for the court is estimated based on the amount of fines collected and tickets written the previous year.

The municipal court, established in late 2012, also handles any health code, building code or zoning violations issued by the county planning and zoning department.

The planning and zoning department submitted between 35 and 40 violation complaints to the municipal court prosecutor William W. Eckelkamp Jr., but they did not make it on any of the 2019 dockets.

The planning and zoning department has sent an average of 35 violations to the court each year since its inception and it is up to the prosecutor, whomever it may be, to take the case to the court.

In 2017, the number of planning/zoning and building code violations sent to the court was more than 80.

Caseload

The municipal court staff is composed of the judge, with an annual salary of $26,360, and a clerk who is paid $30,478 per year.

Before last year, municipal court prosecuting duties fell under the office of the county counselor, which was a county department.

In April 2018, the county commission opted to eliminate the full-time county position and instead pays current legal counsel Mark Piontek on a hourly basis at approximately $144,000 per year.

Former municipal court prosecutor Joe Purschke, who is now an Associate Circuit Judge, continued his role as municipal court prosecutor until his election to the bench in November 2018.

In 2017, Purschke told The Missourian about 50 percent pay their tickets by mail. Another 40 percent get a lawyer or show up in court and the other 10 percent are never heard from again.

Purschke added bench warrants are eventually issued for those who ignore their violation or traffic citation and a simple issue then becomes a greater charge.

Using those parameters, about 2,400 cases were actually heard before the municipal court judge Gael Wood last year.

The municipal court meets every Thursday evening at 5 p.m. in the historic courthouse in Union.

Collections

Since its inception in November 2012, the municipal court has generated more than $3.8 million in revenues.

• In 2018, the court collected $598,174 in revenues from court costs and fines associated with tickets. Projected revenues for 2018 were $805,000 based on 2017 numbers. According to sheriff’s office reports, 5,716 tickets were submitted to the municipal court.

• In 2017, deputies issued 5,971 tickets to the municipal court and collections were more than $150,000 higher than the projected revenues and $165,000 more than the previous year.

That year, which coincided with Steve Pelton’s first year as sheriff, $663,034 was collected compared to the $512,350 which was expected.

• In 2016, the municipal court collected $497,515, which was about $24,000 more than the $473,250 which was projected in the budget.

That year, 4,037 tickets were sent to the municipal court.

• Municipal court revenues in 2015 were $448,887, just $2,000 more than the $443,200 which was expected.

• In 2014, revenues were $453,115, topping the projected $425,100 by more than $25,000.

• 2013 was the first full year of the municipal court operation and revenues exceeded the county’s expectations by more than $190,000.

In all, $447,704 was collected compared to the $257,100 which was predicted.

• The municipal court held its first session Nov. 1, 2012. In its first two months of operation, the court collected $65,548, which was about $22,000 less than the $87,000 first projected when the court was formed.

Pelton stressed the number of tickets written annually fluctuates each year due to a wide range of circumstances.

The major increase between 2016 and 2017 is attributed to the sheriff’s office reaching full staffing and the availability of more deputies to patrol.