Got an outstanding fine? You could soon find your name online in this Mississippi city

Published 5:14 am Wednesday, August 4, 2021

If you have outstanding fines with one Mississippi city, you could soon find your name with the fine online.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday approved a resolution to publish the names of people owing back fines and charged in contempt of court warrants for not paying their fines on the city’s site. No date has been determined when the list will be placed online.

Mayor Pro Tem Alex Monsour said the city’s information technology employees are in the process of preparing a site to list the names.

“We can only publish their name, the amount they owe and the city where they live,” City Attorney Nancy Thomas said. “Most people know if they owe something, but if their name is on there that they owe, then they can call and find out if it’s them.

“We’ve got to make certain we have the correct information and a warrant is on file at the police department,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to do some checks and balances before we put that (list) together.”

Monsour said publishing the list was the result of discussions between city officials about a way to create public awareness about the past-due fines.

“We had to make sure constitutionally that it’s OK and that’s what’s taken the time, to research the law,” he said. “We just think that it may be another tool that will help us get these warrants taken care of and collect these fines.”

The resolution comes as the Vicksburg Municipal Court begins its second amnesty period of the year to either reduce or eliminate the $3,652,307.29 presently owed the city in back fines.

It cites two Mississippi Attorney General’s opinions; one outlining the authority to publish the list and another indicating what information on the individual is allowed.

An Oct. 30, 2012, opinion to the city attorney of Lucedale says the city can publish a list of people who owe back fines on a website under its home rule authority allowed under state law.

According to the opinion, the city’s home rule authority under state law allows it to “adopt any orders, resolutions or ordinances with respect to such municipal affairs, property and finances” which are not in conflict with state law.

The second opinion involves a DeSoto County question about the kind of personal information that can be put online.

Recovering past due fines has been a problem for city officials.

Besides the amnesty program, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in December 2019 approved an agreement with Municipal Intercept Co. LLC to work with the Mississippi Department of Revenue to put a lien on an individual’s state income tax refund if they owe the city money.