DSS pursing civil judgments for money owed Fulton County

Investigative unit presently looking at 20 cases

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Department of Social Services is reinstating pursuit of civil judgments in County Court for money owed the department.

DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper recently outlined the new plan for the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee. She said DSS’s Investigative Unit is currently pursuing about 20 cases.

She said the current DSS attorney did research on the issue and determined that civil judgments could be filed by DSS in County Court without the payment of a filing fee.

DSS many years ago filed civil judgments in Johnstown City Court. The judgments were designed to garnish wages of people DSS knew were working and who owed the department money. Cooper said this process ended when City Court notified DSS the court would require the department pay a filing fee.

“We had stopped doing it because it had cost money,” Cooper said.

But the commissioner said DSS has revisited this issue and will be reinstituting the filing of civil judgments to garnish wages of people that the department “generally knows” are working but collecting benefits.

“They owe the department money, whether it’s a fuel loan or whatever,” Cooper said.

Notice of the summons for a civil judgment proceeding and the final income execution must be personally served, Cooper said. DSS intends to add the cost of the personal service to the judgment, she said. DSS has a memorandum of understanding with the county Sheriff’s Department to execute the personal service.

Cooper said the sheriff’s office will then be in the first position for any money collected and will receive payment for personal service prior to DSS applying funds to any DSS ledgers.

She said the Investigative Unit has access to several data bases for employment information. Cooper said the 19 cases it is pursuing have been sent letters advising they owe DSS money. She said the letter indicates they have 10 days to pay off the debt, or DSS will begin legal proceedings to recover the money.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.