The firm of Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson has lucrative contracts with local government entities to collect back taxes, along with traffic, parking, and toll citation fines. While expensive government contracts aren’t unusual, the tactics that the firm uses to collect taxes for government entities are alarming.
Since FY 2010, the controversial and politically connected firm has received $44 million from Houston ISD and $52 million from the City of Houston. Aside from being awarded large government contracts, they are also major spenders.
State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) received $2.3 million from the group over the last decade. Mayoral candidate State Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) has also benefited from Linebarger subcontracting his law firm, Barnes & Turner. Turner’s firm received over a million dollars since 2009 from contracts that Linebarger has with the City of Houston and Houston ISD.
A CNN Money report noted that Linebarger “doles out more on lobbying state lawmakers than some of Texas’ biggest corporate giants, including ExxonMobil, American Airlines, and Halliburton.” The problem is that the same elected officials who receive donations from private debt collectors, make the decision whether or not to hire them.
Linebarger is essentially given free reign to use whatever means necessary to collect back taxes and unpaid fees on behalf of local governments. State law also allows the firm to levy fees up to 20% on top of the fines already due.
Linebarger’s questionable practices warrant attention from taxpayers and lawmakers.
Harris County resident, Marco Rangel was forced to pay Linebarger over $400 for $10 in toll charges. According to a report he said, “They kept piling on and adding fees.” Following that, Linebarger sent him another demand letter for $300 for unpaid false alarm fees from when his family accidentally set off their security alarm.
While most debt collectors are limited as to how much they can mislead consumers with repercussions for delinquent payments, Linebarger is allowed to take extreme actions even as far as threatening arrest. Taxpayers should take issue with local and state governments hiring private firms with questionable ties. Their tax dollars shouldn’t be used to harass and intimidate them.