Almost 200 high-paid Massachusetts clerk magistrates and their assistants are padding their pockets with thousands of dollars in bail fees, a little-known perk payment that fiscal watchdogs say should go to the cash-strapped state, reports the Boston Herald. The $40 fees are incurred by suspects who pay bail set by the clerk magistrates and assistants after hours, when courts are closed. The fee goes straight to the judicial staffers – on top of their salaries of $84,000 to $110,000. Said Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “They are paid well. This should be part of their responsibilities.”
Critics warn of a possible built-in conflict of interest: Rather than receive a flat fee for every suspect, magistrates collect the fee only if they set bail for a suspect and the bail is paid, potentially creating an incentive to set low bail. State Bail Administrator Michael McEneaney defends the system, saying the fees were instituted to attract and retain employees who wouldn't do the after-hours work otherwise. “Don't trash it unless you have a better system you want to propose,” he said. Under the system, at least one clerk nearly doubled his salary.