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Koster sues 13 municipalities for excessive traffic, court fines

Saint Louis, Mo. — Attorney General Chris Koster announced to a room of reporters that he filed a civil lawsuit in the 21st Judicial Court of Missouri against 13 St. Louis County municipalities for violating a state law that caps how much revenue cities may collect via traffic tickets and court fees.

“Macks Creek Law” limits communities from collecting more than 30 percent of their annual revenue through traffic tickets or court fees. Koster’s office says all 13 municipalities are in violation. Eight have failed to disclose how much revenue was collected through fines and fees, and five failed to file any financial reports at all.

“Traffic ordinances are enacted to promote public safety,” Koster said. “It’s not to create an income stream for government. That’s not appropriate.”

Koster identifies a number of cases of cities appearing to duck their obligation to provide detailed financial breakdowns of their revenue sources, including those related to fees and fines. Under Macks Creek Law, Koster says the municipalities identified in the lawsuit should no longer have jurisdiction over their traffic violations.

Koster’s suit comes on the heels of a number of legislative proposals to change the way cities may collect revenue via traffic tickets and court fees and, by his own admission, is in direct response to issue raised by unrest in Ferguson after the August 9th shooting of Michael Brown.

Co-Chairs of the Ferguson Commission, Rev. Starsky Wilson and Rich McClure, stood with Koster during the announcement. McClure said that some cities were even budgeting for increases in ticket revenue, a clear indicator that the tickets were more about raising funds than protecting safety.

“It’s a clear indication they want to extract more revenue,” McClure said. “We will not let this die, we will not back down.”

Koster said the continued issues being raised by the Ferguson Commission brought the seriousness of the Macks Creek Law violations to light.