Actions by the Missouri Office of Courts Administrators to reign in excesses in municipal courts in the St. Louis area could force Carthage to turn its municipal court over to the Jasper County Circuit Court system in the next few months.

Actions by the Missouri Office of Courts Administrators to reign in excesses in municipal courts in the St. Louis area could force Carthage to turn its municipal court over to the Jasper County Circuit Court system in the next few months.
The Carthage City Council Public Safety Committee discussed the issue at its regular meeting on Monday and decided to send to the full council a proposal to transfer all Carthage municipal cases to the circuit court when long-time Municipal Judge Brad Cameron retires in October.
Committee Chairman James Harrison said the vote was split with he and Council Member Darren Collier voting to send the decision to the council, Council Member Kirby Newport voting against it and Council Member Tim Shields, who is a bailiff with the circuit court, abstaining from the vote.
“I'm not sure I like the idea,” Harrison said. “I just didn't think it was a decision that should be made by just the four of us (on the Public Safety committee). I felt that the full council should discuss it and make the final decision.”
City Administrator Tom Short said Missouri state law mandates that all judges retire at the age of 70.
Carthage Municipal Judge Brad Cameron will reach that age in mid-October.
Short said state law also requires the city to give the Office of State Courts Administrators six months notice if it plans to turn the municipal court functions over to the circuit court, meaning the city has until July to make a decision if it wants to merge the municipal court with the circuit court.
Short said the city was looking at having to increase its budget to operate the municipal court by 30 percent, from a little more than $180,000 in the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, to more than $225,000 next year, just to meet the rules the state has said it will start enforcing in the coming years.
Short said the state is reacting to the unrest in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in 2014 and the subsequent investigations that found problems with municipal courts in the St. Louis area by changing rules regarding separation of duties with in the municipal courts.
He said the state was also adding people to enforce rules and make changes to take the authority over municipal courts away from the cities.
Short said his decision to recommend turning the municipal court over to the circuit court was not as much a budget or cost decision as it was based on the actions of the state.
“Our concern is that the state has been trying to take authority from the cities as far as municipal courts operations go because of the Ferguson deal,” Short said. “They're addressing a problem that arose in Ferguson, but they're making it state wide. If we have no control or no authority over the courts, then what benefit is there to have our municipal court. There's better benefits to the city to turn it over to the circuit court than to keep it here.”

Feral cats
In other business the Public Safety Committee heard from Terri Hill, who recently purchased the home at 1165 S. Main St. with her mother Peggy Egan, about the feral cat problem she brought to the full Council's attention on March 27.
At that March meeting, Hill said the feral cats had ruined $3,000 worth of her outdoor furniture and was causing an environmental hazard.
Public Safety Chairman Harrison said Bill Welch, a former City Council member and advocate for feral cats, addressed the committee about the feral cat ordinance the city had approved in 2009 and told the committee there were more than 30 feral cat colonies in the city.
The committee recommended repealing language in the city code allowing feral cat colonies and making all feral cats subject to capture, upon complaint, by the Carthage Animal Control Officer.