You had your chance: City coming after city-employee deadbeats

Posted: March 02, 2011

As part of the courts' crackdown on debt deadbeats, the City Controller's Office and court leaders yesterday announced a campaign to withhold wages from hundreds of city employees who owe bail money, restitution and court fines.

Controller Alan Butkovitz and Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield announced that a letter was sent yesterday to 622 city employees who owe a total of $1 million. They have until April 1 to pay their debts or enter into a payment plan.

If they don't, up to 20 percent of their biweekly wages will be garnished.

"Drastic fiscal times call for drastic fiscal measures," Neifield said at a news conference.

This latest effort is part of the city court system's initiative to recoup $1.5 billion in unpaid bail, restitution and other court costs.

The courts last week warned deadbeats to pay up or enter into a payment plan by this past Monday, or risk more drastic measures, such as getting their property seized, having their debts handled by collection agencies, with an added penalty, or having their wages garnished.

Butkovitz said that this latest initiative stems from the success of a campaign that his office launched in January 2010 to garnish the wages of city employees who owed back taxes.

That effort generated more than $3 million, $700,000 of which was withheld from paychecks of city employees who didn't pay up or failed to enter a payment plan, he said.

Dave Wasson, chief deputy court administrator, said that the largest debt owed to the courts by a city employee is $150,000, but that the majority of people owe less than $1,000.

The courts also have the authority under state law to order that wages of non-city employees be garnished, too, Wasson said.

The First Judicial District is working with outside lawyers who will step in after collection-agency efforts fail. The lawyers have been contracted to determine where a debtor works and what property the person has.

To this end, the same court order that the courts will be issuing to garnish delinquent city employees' wages will also be used to go after non-city employees' wages.

For payment arrangements, call 215-683-1482. People can look up what they owe at www.courts.phila. gov/collections.

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