Jim Guilfoil of Monona, one of our favorite gadflies, thinks it's a scam. Recently, he had to use a credit card to post $1,000 bond to get a family member out of jail, which meant agreeing to a service fee. It was his only option, since it was a weekend and the only other forms of payment accepted are cash, money order and cashier's check.
"How do you leave your loved one in jail because you can't get a cashier's check?" he asks. "You're under duress to sign that thing."
As it turns out, the charges against the family member were dropped, and the $1,000 refunded. But the $95 service fee for using a credit card was not. Guilfoil doesn't see why he should have to pay this charge, or why it's so high. And while his inquiry to County Executive Kathleen Falk drew a courteous response, he's still upset.
Capt. Jeff Teuscher of the Dane County Sheriff's Office says an outside vendor, GovPay EXP, is used to avoid the processing fees charged by credit card companies. Private businesses absorb this cost, but, Teuscher says, "We don't want to do that. It's taxpayers' money." (The county does not make money from this arrangement, as it does with the sky-high fees for inmate phone calls.)
The GovPay service fee varies by bond amount - $20 for between $1 and $200, $38 for $200 to $300, $50 for $400 to $500 and so on up to a flat 8% fee for amounts over $2,000. That's much higher than the standard credit cards fees. But Sheriff Dave Mahoney says GovPay offers guaranteed payment of charged amounts: "If it's a bad credit card, the fee still comes to Dane County."
Mahoney says the cards are not pre-screened. Guilfoil disputes this, saying he was brought into the picture after ones from other family members were rejected.
Teuscher says the office is pleased with GovPay, which has been doing the job for at least several years, but will soon be seeking bids from other vendors: "We realized we aren't sure what's out there" in terms of providers. He's not heard any complaints - until Guilfoil came along.
Thank goodness for the gadflies among us.