“I will not apologize for my company pursuing these debts or the manner in which we collect. We have operated within the boundaries of the law and will continue to as we pursue these and other debts,” Mills wrote in the letter.
Councilman Bernie Herpin thanked Mills for providing a “great explanation.”
“As a person who paid his storm water bill and an elected official, I agree 100 percent,” Herpin wrote in the email, which he also sent to The Gazette.
“People don’t seem to realize this recent collection effort was as the result of a court order. And, the media seems to have decided not to make that clear in order to sensationalize the story,” he wrote.
In a follow-up email, Herpin acknowledged that the story that appeared Saturday in The Gazette was “factual, fair, and balanced.”
“Early on when the story first broke, the media was not so quick to point out what you did for the basis of the collections,” he wrote.
Here’s the full text of the letter that Mills issued yesterday:
September 26, 2011
To The Citizens of Colorado Springs:
Over the weekend I have read the stories, comments, and blogs, watched the news, and listened to the talking heads on the radio along with their callers and I feel it is necessary to rebut the misconceptions, fallacies, lies, uninformed, uneducated, ignorant and outright idiotic statements I have seen and heard about my agency, the judges, the sheriff and the city government. Although I cannot address any specific case or account due to disclosure laws, I will try my best to explain our collection processes and our position on these matters.
First of all we are not Nazi’s and there is no Gestapo. Any comparison is implausibly dim-witted and beneath rational discussion and those who made this comparison should be ashamed. Especially the tea partiers and conservatives, of which I am one, who have been whining and feigning outrage for years about the attacks from the left on your character and business practices; yet here you are. To argue against government debt but in the same breath argue that the government should not collect the money owed to it is absurd. Whether you agree with the debt is inconsequential. It has been found to be legal and owing by the courts and we were hired to collect it. If the 3 or 4% of you who did not pay this fee want to engage in civil disobedience that is your right and it is the right of the city and its collection agency to go after you and collect that which is owed. You are not victims. There is no police state. This is not Germany 1936 or a precursor to debtor’s prison. This is not Birmingham circa 1963, you are not MLK and we are not Bull Connor. This wasn’t actually said. It just seems like the next logical crazy statement in the poorly advised hyperbole train that is all too common today.
Secondly we have been in business and lived in this city for decades and so have our employees and their families. We resent the implication that we are some fly-by-night criminal organization sending the police to “steal” from you. The courts have found in our, and thus the city’s, favor on the validity of these debts in numerous cases including but not limited to mediations and trials. We have judgment against these debtors and we have the right to use any lawful means to collect a debt. Numerous attempts were made to contact debtors via mail and phone before legal actions were taken. All legal actions were taken with the permission of the city and all debtors and places of businesses are served in advance. All debtors have the right to file an answer and battle their debt in court. Once the judgment is filed we decide how we pursue payment, not the city. This includes property liens, garnishment of wages, and yes, even a till tap. Our contacts at the city were notified that these types of actions could be used. Most accounts never reach legal action, not to mention the measures that have garnered so much recent press. We would rather not have to use these remedies, but if payment is not made we have very few paths by which to seek payment. We have a business to run and an obligation to our client.
I understand the issue many of you have with these tactics but they are legal and unfortunately, sometimes necessary. A till tap can be requested by anyone who holds a judgment against a business, not just collection agencies. We do not buy debt and we do not charge exorbitant fees and we certainly don’t collect every dollar placed with us. If a debtor refuses to honor the requests for payment or the judgments against them we must take remedies to recoup monies lawfully owed. Now a debtor may not agree that a debt but it is owed, but once a court enters judgment and finds that the money is due, there is no further argument. The right and honorable thing to do is pay it. If a debtor pays or makes payment arrangements no further collection activity is required. I will not apologize for my company pursuing these debts or the manner in which we collect. We have operated within the boundaries of the law and will continue to as we pursue these and other debts.
For those of you clamoring for a refund of all fees and a forgiveness of these debts please stop and think for a moment. Total outstanding debt is about a million dollars. Fees already paid voluntarily or collected: over $40 million. Now understand the city spent that money. In order to issue a refund the city would necessarily have to raise revenue somehow. That will either be in the form of a loan, which we the Taxpayer will repay, severe cuts to city operating budgets, by another fee, or by tax increases. Those are the only funding sources municipalities have. So why not just forgive the debt of the last few? Simple, they owe it. Not to mention that it might open the city up to lawsuits from the 96-97% of us who paid the fee seeking to get our money back. So we’re back to $40 million again not to mention the cost of defending these lawsuits for years to come. Those costs will have to be paid by us, the Taxpayer.
Whether you agree with the original Stormwater ordnance is immaterial. The fact is it was not an illegal tax; it was ordinance with fee structures. From 01/01/2007 to 12/31/2009 the ordinance was in effect and any payments not made are considered to be owed and should be collected. Those of us who voluntarily paid this fee should not have to cover the cost of those who are willfully disobeying the law.
As to our D- rating from the BBB I’m not sure how this rating was arrived at. We have had 2 complaints in three years. One was Stormwater related. If we failed to answer a complaint I apologize. It was an oversight and it is being investigated and answered as you read this. We had an A+ before Stormwater and I will see it restored as well as the reputation of my company. That being said our answer to Stormwater complaints of any kind is contained herein. Many of you may not like this explanation and it may not meet your satisfaction. That is not something I can control and it is certainly no reason to drop our rating so precipitously. We run our business within the confines of the law and our employees abide by all state and federal regulations. Now if you do not like the regulations…work to change them. Don’t name-call and compare hardworking American small business people, elected officials, and law enforcement officers to Nazi’s or mobsters. It makes you look foolish and detracts from your argument. Collection agencies provide a valuable service and return tens of billions to businesses and civil authorities annually. This staves off cost increases and fees that would eventually be passed on to you the consumer, and in this case, the taxpayer. If you want collection efforts to stop, pay the bill. Just like 96-97% of your fellow citizens did and our efforts will cease. We are a collection agency hired to collect a debt and we will continue to do our job. Thank you for the opportunity to address these issues.
A-1 Collections, Inc.