Bail Bonds by the Bay

The Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday took up discussion of Port Orchard’s reputation for attracting bail bond businesses. The topic came up during a presentation by Development Director James Weaver of the city’s critical areas ordinance update which drifted into a discussion of the city’s code for the downtown area (and the oft controversial issue of building height) then to the issue of bail bonds.

In a previous story I wrote about an effort by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce to “brand” the city in a favorable light, someone commented that the town ought to be called Bail Bonds by the Bay. It was a joke … kind of … one that doesn’t sit well with the council, whose members are trying to reinvent the town as a trendy upscale place. Bail bonds don’t exactly fit the image, they say.

Of the bail bond companies listed in the Kitsap Peninsula Yellow Pages, five show physical addresses on Bay Street. No surprise since the Kitsap County jail is just up the hill. But that’s too many according to Mayor Lary Coppola, who said at the meeting, “I just think that’s the wrong message for our city.”

Coppola is disgruntled with the town’s bail bond companies not only for the less than savory image he says they convey, but also for the fact they don’t generate sales tax for the city. All they pay is $30 a year for a business license. “This is a business that gives our downtown a black eye, and we don’t make any money off it,” he said.

Some council members asked why bail bonds are allowed in the downtown business district at all.

When the city revised its code for the downtown area, they specified retail businesses could go on the street level of Bay Street, but business services, which the council envisioned as “medical-professional” businesses such as dentists or lawyers, must go on the second story. Turns out bail bonds, under state laws, fall under the category of “business services” and so are technically allowed in Port Orchard, said City Attorney Greg Jacoby.

Those bail bond businesses (and other business services) already on street level before the code revision are vested, but any coming in after would be required to whisk themselves out of sight of tourists and shoppers.

The council discussed its desire to attract retail shops to downtown and, not so subtly, invite the bail bond businesses to move elsewhere.

Coppola asked Jacoby if the city could pass a surcharge on such business. Jacoby said it would amount to a form of B&O tax (he will look into it, he said). When Coppola asked if the tax could be made to apply only to bail bonds, Jacoby said “probably not,” that would be discriminatory. He added that the city has limited taxing authority.

Councilman John Clauson asked if strip joints are allowed. Turns out the city already researched that last year, when Espresso Gone Wild of Gorst, featuring baristas in pasties, wanted to set up shop in Belfair. Mason County’s code nixes such attire in its business district. Port Orchard has similar laws protecting its citizens from the perils of pasties.

Clauson complained that the bail bondsmen are seldom in their offices. He wondered if the city could enact some ordinance requiring that shops and business be actively open certain hours of the day. Jacoby said he’d look into it.

“We can regulate their signage pretty heavily,” offered Weaver helpfully.

The council seemed united in its opinion of bail bonds in Port Orchard. When Coppola asked, “Am I the only one who feels they’re a detriment?” there was a chorus of agreement from council members.

Jacoby suggested one way to get them to move is to find an alternate place for them to go. The council discussed having them locate closer to the courthouse, but there was discussion about the courthouse neighbors sensitivity to such business.

“Bottom line is, our code says they have a right to be there, so you have to persuade them to move,” Jacoby said.

“I want to get in their pocket in a serious way,” Coppola said, referencing the above-mentioned tax or other regulatory measure. “We either make some money off them, or we make it so unattractive to them that they want to move.”

21 thoughts on “Bail Bonds by the Bay

  1. Well, you could just move the courthouse and jail out of Port Orchard and the bail Bondsmen will follow. But Coppola wouldn’t like that. But what is more disturbing is Coppola saying he ‘wants to get in their pocket in a serious way.’ EXCUSE ME? An attitude like that is not attractive to businesses and if he wants to target bail bondsmen today, who will he target tomorrow for ‘special attention?’

  2. This is deck-chair arrangement.

    That whole street is screwed up and needs an extreme makeover.

    Turn the shops around to face the water. It is the places only real asset.

    Take out the parking lot and make it a walking park that people actually want to COME TO instead of the current configuration where we just want to GET THROUGH as quickly as possible.

    Instead of kicking out legitimate, licensed businesses, (and what about that darned junky bike shop?!?) make their location irrelevant.

    Create a true destination space by simnply using the locations best asset (the waterfront) as a true asset instead of a stupid parking lot.

    It just aint that hard.

  3. As owner of a local downtown Bail Bond Agency, I am surprised by the Mayor’s opinion of us. This same Mayor personally came into my office and asked to display his campaign sign in my window when he was running for office. Soon after his election, he approximately tripled his salary which is paid by the taxpayers. Which leads me to ask, who is getting into who’s pocket? Many prominent people, who are considered upstanding citizens have found themselves in my office, utilizing my service. We are licensed, regulated and taxed by the State of Washington. Our industry serves a valid purpose of holding the accused accountable for their appearance in the court process at no expense to the taxpayer.

  4. CONCERNED PORT ORCHARD RESIDENT.

    Wow – It is not the Bail Bondsmen that are the problem. It is the need to control the large population of the criminal element in Kitsap County and Port Orchard.

    The concentration of criminals causes a lot of bonding offices here competing for the business created by the city jails, county jails and courthouses that increase the criminal concentration here. I am sure the city would be devastated if you removed the income and jobs from the court houses and jails from town to solve the need for bondsmen here and eliminate them from town.

    The law allowing criminals to be bailed is and extreme relief to the tax payer, criminal justice system and understaffed police departments. Has anyone thought of how much more we would need to be taxed to allow inefficient and hampered government to enforce court appearances and house all criminals!? This cannot be accomplished under the current system in place. Our current county and city police staffs are not sufficiently staffed, trained or motivated for this endeavor.

    The statement that bonding companies do not produce revenues to the city is an extremely backward way of non accounting for the huge sums of money that the bonding companies save the taxpayers, cities and county. The cities and county do not have to raise revenue for the cost of recovering criminals that skip out on their court appearances. Those costs are covered by the fees charged the criminal for his bond to the court guaranteeing his/her appearance. If the bonding services were run by new inefficient government programs these huge expenditures would have to be covered by new tax payer sources because there would be no the bonding companies to save those costs.

    The judges release criminals under bonds to keep taxpayers from having to build an inordinate amount of jail cells at a horrendous cost.

    Special units would have to be developed to apprehend criminals that skip their court appearances and trials. It is a full time job. That would be extremely costly and ineffective.

    A bonding system is in place at no cost to the taxpayer or courts. It saves substantial amounts of tax money and reduces the chance of death to our enforcement officers trying to return these criminals to the courts for justice.
    Some are Extremely Dangerous.

    Bonding agents have to risk lives for very minimal sums when judges reduce bail from $50,000 to 5,000 to help clear the jails. A bonding fee is only 10% of the bond amount or $500 on a $5000 bond.

    In a recent example I learned about 2 men that had to fly several states away and risk their lives to bring a criminal back to our courts for justice at a cost to the bonding company of nearly $5000 for a $500 fee. ( No cost to the court system or the taxpayers)

    I cannot believe the totally irresponsible comment by Mayor Coppola “I want to get deep into their pockets in a serious way” This is not the comment of a responsible or visionary person.

    I live on a boat on the waterfront is he going to target boaters next because we destroy the trendy atmosphere and present a less than savory image that he wants.

    Buy the way I don’t bring in revenue to the city or SAVE IT HUGE SOMES OF MONEY EITHER.

    Most cities have some bonding companies in front of their courthouses.

    To make Port Orchard trendy you will have to first clean up the criminal, drunken and drug activity down town to make citizens feel safe in the evening there. Next it will take a revamp of the entire business district to keep that activity out of downtown in the future.

    I think the mayor and the chamber need to have a constructive revitalization plan rather than a witch hunt to cover their inability to lead the town in a suitable direction!

    Enough for now there is much more.

    Russ

  5. As a former owner of a Bail Bond Company I can attest to service the Bail Bond Industry provides in saveing the taxpayers money. To target them as \undesirable business\ is a mistake. I operated a Bail Bond company in Port Orchard on Bay Street for 10 years. One of the reasons Bay Street was a good location was that it was a safe location to operate a 24 hour a day business. At 3:30 AM I could arrive at my office, have clients arrive, have a radio on and not be concerned that the \neighbors\ would complain. The street was well lit, well patrolled by several branches of law enforcement. And even though some of my clients would be considered criminals many were good citizens who had made a mistake or were victim of circumstances. My guess is that most,if not all the Bail Bond Offices in Port Orchard would be happy to relocate closer to the Court House and Jail, providing they could find locations with good visability and security, reasonable rents, and well lit parking areas. Maybe the city would like to consider building a Bail Bond Mall across the street from the Jail? I do agree that signage for a bonding company should be professional in appearance and regulated if necessary, but the same regulation needs to apply across the board to all businesses.

  6. Port Orchard is the county seat of Kitsap County, this includes, among other administrative departments, a jail. It makes sense that there might be a higher number of bail bonds (and lawyer) businesses in this town than—let’s pretend—Purdy.

    Bail bond businesses, as long as they are performing within the laws of the state and city, are legitimate, and don’t cost the taxpayers a dime, as it is the accused person that foots the bill. But we need to dig deeeper into their pockets?

    Coppola has spent his time before and after the mayoral election dismissing the work of past mayors–one in particular that I will not name–but at election time he indicated that he could do a better job than his predecessors (no talk of income increase).

    But surprise! He eventually requested (during a recession) a hefty pay raise. Question: just whose pockets are being delved into?–Methinks the taxpayers.

    Maybe Coppola could pick the pockets of other businesses—oh wait—I don’t think he will go after those he considers elite compadres, no matter if their practices or tactics may seem questionable.

    Lary, before you bore me with one of your reactionary excuses about your behavior please realize that I am writing from my perception only, so don’t waste your time writing a long mumbo jumbo PR blog trying to change my mind. Being that this is America, by all means knock yourself out responding to my writing for others on this blog if you so choose, I really don’t care. There will be those who will attest to your gloriousness—so what.

    P.S. Not related to the above, but the term “red-headed stepchild” that Coppola has used in reference to Port Orchard in the past may be a well known saying, but it is insensitive to both families of said children, and the youngsters themselves. There are many other appropriate vernaculars that could be used to evoke the feeling that PO may sometimes feel of lesser importance in Kitsap County. Oh I forgot, he got a smattering of laughter at one meeting I witnessed—that makes it okay.

    Words are important and have impacts—and our electeds should make every effort to remember this. Several officials have been “taken to the woodshed” in the past for making misguided jokes or comments, maybe we need to keep that in mind in the future.

  7. Are legally operating businesses to be subject to the tastes and whims of a mayor? What if the next mayor doesn’t like – say – churches? What if that mayor says, about churches, “If I can’t find a way to drive them out of town, then I’m gonna find a way to get deep in their pockets”? Is that OK? I say no.

  8. This issue has gotten completely blown out of proportion in relation to both what was actually said, and what was the stated intention.

    Neither the City — nor myself personally — have an issue with Bail Bond companies per se. They are legitimate businesses in our community — ones for which there is an obviously demonstrated need and demand. Their desire to locate in close proximity to the jail is also very understandable. The issue for both the City and the downtown merchants, is the location of such establishments in the main retail area of our downtown business district.

    Would five such businesses be appropriate in the downtown retail districts of other parts of the county if the jail were located there instead of Port Orchard? For example, if it were in Silverdale, would Kitsap Mall be an appropriate venue for these businesses? Or Front Street in Poulsbo, Winslow Way on Bainbridge Island, or around the Bremerton Harborside? Of course not. If they were in any of these places, how likely would you be to come there and shop, go out to dinner, or bring your family or out of town visitors there? Downtown Port Orchard is no different.

    When the Downtown Overlay District was established — under the previous Mayor and Council by the way — only retail businesses were intended to be located on the ground floor of Bay Street. However, the final wording of the ordinance mistakenly allowed businesses like bail bond offices — originally envisioned to be allowed on the second floor or above — at the Bay Street retail level. The Council has made it clear it will amend the code to correct this situation.

    These are businesses that quite frankly because of their very nature make it difficult to attract other quality retail business to downtown, and have a negative impact on the retail businesses already there. They generate absolutely no sales tax revenue for the City — which was the intent in establishing the Downtown Overlay District as a retail center in the first place.

    It isn’t the intent of the City — or myself — to drive bail bond companies out of town. We recognize the purpose they serve, why they choose Port Orchard, and we respect need they fulfill. We have no issues with them being in Port Orchard. It is simply the belief of the City Council, the downtown merchants, and myself, that the downtown Marina District retail area is an inappropriate location for them — nothing more, nothing less.

    Finally, as far as the “Red-headed stepchild” analogy is concerned… If I offended anyone, it was not my intention, and for that, please accept my sincere apology. I will choose my words more carefully in the future.

    Lary Coppola, Mayor

  9. Mr. Coppola, My name is Shannon Regan I am the owner of A-Bail4Less Bail Bonds in Port Orchard. I am also a member of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. I have been a state licensed and regulated bail agent for close to ten years. I am not understanding your need to attack the bail industry. Should I change my location to some dark alley where the wives and mothers, children and fathers of people incarcerated should transact their business with me? Because those are the people I am dealing with. I am dealing with wives who have to pack up their children at midnight and come down to my office to post bail for their husband to assure they are able to go to work the next morning. Why shouldn’t I be able to provide a safe office location for myself and my clients? I bring in revenue to the downtown area not only personally but through the many people who travel to my office and have to wait several hours for the release of their loved one. The face of my building was painted by a local painter, my signs were made by Port Orchards Signs, I shop for supplies at the local Wal-Mart and frequent many local restaurants at lunch time. I urge you to come and meet myself and my two young children personally at my office. During which time you can also meet my father (licensed bail agent) soon to be retiring after 30 years of service to our community and owner of a local non-profit organization.
    I am sure you have heard of the old saying “Innocent until proven guilty.” So what am I guilty of?

  10. I agree. ‘Downtown’ should be retail or businesses visitors are drawn to, not just the people needing to post a bond.

    PO used to have bustling retail (include restaurants) downtown.
    I used to drive all the way over to Jorden’s Department store for my riding boots and other items I couldn’t find elsewhere.
    Jordens is where I first saw -and bought- my first wonderful rain shedding canvas jacket.

    Why couldn’t the city find other spots for the bail bond businesses, be generous and help them move if they were agreeable.
    Sharon O’Hara

  11. Shannon,

    I stopped by your office this morning (Monday, May 4, around 11:30 a.m.) to discuss your post with you, but alas, the office was empty – as were all four other downtown bail bond offices I visited today for the same reason. I also called you, but just got your voice mail.

    The City isn’t “attacking” the bail bond industry. The City recognizes the need for the valuable service you provide. And while we’re pleased to know you and the other bail bonds companies that have responded about this issue find our downtown to be a very safe place to be located in the middle of the night, the City Council believes the retail level on Bay Street is simply an inappropriate location.

    There’s nothing more to this. Second floor offices on Bay Street would be completely acceptable, which is where non-retail businesses were originally intended to be. And that means ALL non-retail businesses, not just Bail Bond companies. It was an oversight in the Downtown Overlay District zoning ordinance that should have been corrected before the ordinance was adopted by the previous Council.

    Hopefully, that clears the air on the City’s position and puts this issue to rest.

    And Sharon, it’s good to see we agree on something…In my opinion.

  12. What about people with disabilites who need to access the services of these companies? Are their elevators and wheelchair ramps to the second stories of these old buildings? Or are we now discriminating against them along with credible small businesses. This sounds like a can of worms to me.

  13. Mr. Coppola,
    I appreciate your effort in coming by my office today…I may have failed to explain in my past response that I am a young mother of two young children ages 18 months and 5 years. Sometimes mommy duty trumps the business duty. Anyhow, my offer still stands. Thank you.

  14. Robert, do you mean physically challenged folks need an elevator to get to a bail bonds office?

    I can’t imagine such folks needing a bail bonds person. When was the last time a physically challenged person needed a bond?
    Most are too busy to get into such trouble….
    Sharon O’Hara

  15. Sharon,
    The Defendants or people in trouble are not the ones that physically go to the bonding companies, these people are generally incarcerated. I am speaking of friends and family members that would need access to theses services in order to post bail for their loved one. And yes many elderly people and people that are disabled do post bail for their sons daughters etc…it is good that you are asking questions because often times the bail industry is misunderstood. In order for someone to be released from jail on a bail bond a friend or loved one must first come into a bonding company and financially apply for a bail bond. They fill out legally binding paperwork to ensure the Defendants appearance in court. All bail bond agents are fully licensed through two state regulatory agencies and also backed by multi-million dollar surety companies. If the loved one qualifys for the bail bond and the paperwork they have filled out is processed and approved then the next step is for the bail agent to post the bail at the jail and start the process for release of the Denfendant or incarcerated person. Another interesting tidbit, is that the court systems are the ones setting the bail amounts for those that are incarcerated. The court system decides whether to allow someone a bail or to place them on a no bail hold not the bondsman. Hopefully this sheds some light on the issue.

  16. Oh and also Sharon…the people that are allowed a bail through the court are people that have been charged with a crime and are not yet convicted or found guilty of the crime. Thanks 🙂

  17. Well here we go, the first bail bondsmen to feel the pinch of the politics surrounding the bay street bail bond offices downtown Port Orchard. We are A AAA A24/7 Bail Bonds, Inc. located at 810 Bay street Downtown Port Orchard, Phone # 895-4848.. We not only do business in Port Orchard, we also have a branch office located at 803 Vandercook Way Suite 3 Longview, Wa 98632 Phone # 360-636-7313, this does not include the counties of Clark, Mason, Lewis, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Pacific, There’s 30 more counties to list so if your reading this you get the point. We filed our Justification paperwork to the County over 2 months ago November 24th, 2009 to be exact, also paid the $230.00 filing fee that was required, were still waiting…. and waiting… I’m sure the poor secratary in the prosecutor’s office knows me by first name now, cause I have called their several times asking to speak with the prosecutor or his assistant in regards to our case, I keep getting the run around kicked to voice mail, and the couple times I had the pleasure of talking with the assistant I was told that there were fires that needed to be put out and she would speak to the prosecutor about our case and call us right back so we would know about how long we need to keep waiting until this gets done, and still no return phone calls.. I understand that it takes time in the court system and you have to be patient and understanding because they do have a work load on there desks, I understand that,,, their busy,,, but when another local bail bondsmen new to the business thats not down here on bay street like I am, filed there paperwork at the same place I went, paid the same fee I paid, the only difference is they filed their paperwork on January 4th, 2010, almost 2 months after I filed ours, their case was reviewed by the prosecutor’s office on January 20th, 2010 and a Note For Motion Docket Order For Justification Hearing set for Febuary 5th, 2010. In the time we have been waiting there case was submitted, reviewed and a hearing set for their approval for justification. How is this, and how did I get leap froged in the Court system by another bondsmen that filed the same paperwork as me and be justified before me when I filed months previous, , I am at a loss here, me and my business partner are still scratching our heads trying to figure out what to do next, we have invested thousands of dollars in advertisment, rent, phone’s, and to the Parking Enforcement for all those lovely parking tickets we get trying to do business in downtown Port Orchard. Yes the Mayor’s Quote “lets just hit them in their pocekets and try and slow the progress down” is actually working, he is hitting me in my pockets, thousands of dollars a week are spent trying to keep my business going in Kitsap County, So yes we are feeling the pinch if anyone care’s out there.. I am not one for all this politics, I am just a simple business man trying to do fair business in this community, I dont hang out at the court house and solicite business and pass out business cards to the unfortunate people that get remanded back to jail, we do straight up good business practices and treat the community as we would like to be treated if we were in there situation. In my opinion there are just as many bars, and tattoo shops on bay street then there are bail bond offices, the city council and the mayor have decided on their own behalf that we as bail bondsmen bring a bad reputation to this community, do you think, If there was going to be a potential problam downtown do you think it would happen in front of a bail bond office, my bet would be on the drunken fool hanging out smoking and throwing his ciggerette butts on the concrete creating a disturbance out front of one of the 7 bars on bay street, I think if somethings going to happen it would be at one of those places first.. Dont you think???? Not to open a new can of worms, but if I had to get rid of a business because it gives the community a black eye it would be the local taverns first. Instead of renaming the city Bail Bonds By the Bay, we can call it Booze up on the Bay, and when you get pulled over and go to jail for a D.U.I you can call me at 895-4848 located at 810 Bay Street. A AAA A24/7 Bail Bonds, were there when you need us, the name does say it all….. 24/7 … If anyone has any questions please feel free to give us a call, and also if you want answers to why there are so many bail bondsmen in Port Orchard we especialy incourage you to call, we would love to give you the answer to that question. And to the Mayor if he reads this, you have to remember sir, that the pockets you want to hit people in are pretty deep, there’s atleast 7 companies on bay street that may hate me but do share the same opinion as me, so when it comes time for re-election dont stop by my office located at 810 Bay Street and want to put up your election signs, keep truckin buddy, my vote goes to whoever is running against you, that guys sign will be in my window, along with donations to his or her campain to run against you.. cause obviously you dont want our support, but I’m sure some canidate in the future will want our support, so to those who read this and your thinking of running for mayor in the future contact us for contributions, and donations torwards your campain, we would love to hear from you, and pass along to the thousands of clients we deal with every week your idea’s and concerns that can help make a difference in this community…

    Thank You
    Michael Thornton
    A AAA A24/7 Bail Bonds, Inc.
    360-895-4848

  18. Well it happened, after months of waiting on my justification from the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, I received a letter today from them stating that they were unable to process my justification because the County Courts are working on the adoption of local court rules requiring “portability” clauses in the bail bond justification orders. This would allow for any posted bail bonds to be transfered from District Court to Superior Court and vice versa at no additional cost to the defendant. The process is not going to be completed until September 2010.
    Spoke with the Prosecutor’s assistant as well today (finally), she claims that the judge (Hartman) refuses to sign any and all justifications either new or trying to rejustify, the problam is with this is that this new order if it passes will not be signed until after September 2010 and everyone needs to re-justify by June 1st, Guess what, it’s not going to happen………. I was told no bail bondsmen will be allowed to post bail after june 1st 2010, until September 2010 until this new ruling either passes or fails. If you care to know more please feel free to contact my office at 360-895-4848 or you can come to my office located at 810 Bay Street Downtown Port Orchard… This is an issue we all need to address immediatley, I can see my company not getting to justify, but to not let anyone re-justify in June concerns more then just me and my company. Is this related to what the Mayor has quoted in the past, who knows but it does seem kind of odd that what the Mayor quoted and whats going on with my company in the Court system seems to be related. By shutting us down for 5 months could financialy hurt some bail bondsmen’s in the community, seeing some of them only opperate here in the County, you deffinatley will see some 4 – Rent signs in old vacant bail bonds offices, I’m sure a new bar will probably open up in a few of the old offices on Bay Street, then we could rename the town’s slogan to boozin it up on the Bay,, actually I think I will trade proffessions and start being a bar owner, cause it looks like to me thats the business to be in around here.

  19. My wife and I visited Port Orchard for the first time a couple weekends ago and were pleasantly surprised at the downtown and the shops. We are looking to purchase land in Manchester and having a ‘cute’ small town with it’s small businesses and services is very important to us.

    I have to say the presense and number of bail bonds offices is an immediate detractor from the appeal of the downtown area. So much so I actually searched on the internet and found this article to try to explain why there were so many :-).

    The immediate impression to us was that the area must have a high crime rate to warrant the extreme number of bail bonds. Objectively of course that may not be the case (proximity to the courthouse may be a reasonable explanation). Unfortunately to many folks that may not make up for the poor first impression a visitor to your city may receive.

    Hopefully there is a reasonable solution that makes everyone happy… and I don’t have to try to explain to friends and family that visit us in Manchester why we seem to need so many bail bondsmen.

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