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Privacy violation by Hawaii courts and a Texas collection agency?

Hawaii courts create jobs in Texas to harass locals

Linda Hohnholz, eTN, Haleiwa, HI  Jun 28, 2011

HONOLULU, Hawaii (eTN) - Getting a traffic ticket in Hawaii and forgetting to pay it can get complicated, harassing, and expensive.

Not only will you find a stopper on your drivers license making it impossible to renew your license, not only will you not be able to just pay your ticket at the court, but you will have to send your money to Texas, pay up to 50% in additional fees to a Texas-based collection agency, and add another US$10.00 credit card handling fee for immediate service.

This can easily double the cost of your ticket.

The Hawaii court system, like many other jurisdictions, has contracted with the Texas-based Municipal Service Bureau to collect on Hawaii-issued traffic tickets.

You can expect to receive two phone calls a day, every day until you pay your ticket including the handling fees the agency adds to the ticket amount. Privacy concerns? Not for Hawaii courts. All information is provided by the Honolulu District Court to this privately-owned collection agency in Texas. Once the collection agency is involved, they will be provided with your social security number, your date of birth, your drivers license number, and all your phone numbers, including unlisted numbers.

Don't try to send a check to the Hawaii courts. Payments for Hawaii traffic tickets are only accepted in Texas.

ETN talked to Daniel Robinson, CEO of RCM Hawaii Debt Collection Agency, about this interesting way the Hawaii government is handling collection of its traffic tickets. Daniel estimates a minimum of 7 full-time jobs could have been created in Hawaii to process traffic collections, and his agency is already set up to do the same, or even a better, job of collecting on Hawaii tickets.

State court administrative services told eTN they went through a bidding system to determine which agency would process ticket collections, and the lowest bidder won. That bidder is based in Texas. There was no preference in hiring a Hawaii-based agency. What about following the lead of the Hawaii state Department of Agriculture? A banner on their website states: “Buy Local. It Matters,” and encourages people to “Join the movement.” We had to suppose that the state government only encourages supporting local jobs when it comes to fruits and vegetables.

Hawaii businesses like Hawaiian Airlines is handling their call center and customer service operation in Manila, Philippines. Where is the corporate responsibility to keep jobs at home?

ETN publisher Juergen Thomas Steinmetz had a chance to talk directly to Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie just a couple of days ago. Abercrombie stated: “I'm aware of this, and we'll get rid of them [Municipal Services].”

Municipal Services in Texas has a multi-year contract, so we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out. Let's hope the Governor will manage to move these jobs home.

Questions remain.

A stopper on a drivers license prevents the renewal of a license. It should be a very reliable way to ensure tickets will eventually be paid. Why would such tickets need to be collected by a collection agency?

Why is there this coercion between a public agency (the court) and a private collection agency? Who is getting a share of the administrative late fees, processing fees, and credit card fees on Hawaii adjudicated traffic tickets?

What gives a private out-of-state organization the power to decide who can drive a car in Hawaii?

Is no privacy law violated when a public Hawaii court provides sensitive information about Hawaii citizens including their drivers license numbers, social security numbers, addresses, and unlisted phone numbers?

What assurance is there that the out-of-state collection agency is not sharing or using this information for unrelated activities?

How can it be explained that insurance companies in Hawaii penalize their clients for tickets that had not yet been ruled on?

Does Hawaii government have a privacy problem when it comes to their citizens?

Hawaii courts create jobs in Texas to harass locals

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