Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel has not collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs since taking office in January because, critics say, it would hurt business for bail bondsmen who contributed to his campaign.
"He's nervous about doing it because bondsmen supported him a great deal during his election so he wants cover," said Judge Mike Fields, chairman of the county board that licenses bail bondsmen. "No individual or group of individuals should come before your obligation to the citizens of this county when you're an elected official — no matter how tough it is."
The court costs are generated by lawsuits filed against bail jumpers and bondsmen to have bail money forfeited after a defendant fails to appear for court.
Fields said not collecting the money during tight economic times was "baffling." He said the court costs, now set at $8, are supposed to be about $230, a move that would raise more than $1.5 million a year for Harris County.
Fields said Daniel told him he did not want to "levy a tax" on bail bondsmen who contributed to his election.
Daniel acknowledged he has called the fee a "tax" because it raises the amount bail bondsmen charge defendants, but denied being influenced by more than $10,000 in campaign contributions from bondsmen.
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