A Tale of Two Bail Bondsmen

Two Kitsap County bail bond agents whom I interviewed for a story that ran Sunday on the bail bond industry in Port Orchard had somewhat different takes on attempts by the city of Port Orchard to encourage bail bondsmen to do business somewhere other than Bay Street.

As I mentioned in the story, the city council in 2009 adjusted its zoning for the downtown area to prohibit bail bond agencies on the ground floor of Bay Street buildings. Those already established are allowed to stay. The move, said Mayor Lary Coppola, was intended to reserve prime retail space for businesses that pay sales taxes. Bail bond agencies do not pay sales tax. The most the city gets out of the presence of bail bonds companies, located quite logically down the hill from the Kitsap County jail, is a reputation that one blog commenter dubbed “Bail Bonds by the Bay.”

Coppola said he has been unfairly painted as being unfriendly to bail bond companies, which, he said, serve an important function … it just doesn’t align with Port Orchard’s view of itself as quaint and tourist friendly.

Jim Thornton, who is a licensed bail agent in Kitsap County and who has offices in Mason County and Vancouver, Wa., has tried without great success to open his own bail company in Port Orchard. Thornton has felt unfairly discriminated against by the city and the county. He was delayed in getting “justification” or certification required of all new bail bond companies, a process through the Kitsap County court system (with regular renewals required as well). Thornton finally did get his justification recently, but by then he had decided to move his main office (from which he conducts business in Kitsap and Mason counties as well as Vancouver, WA) from Port Orchard to Shelton (in Mason Co.), where there are relatively few bail bond agencies.

“It’s a day late and a dollar short,” Thornton said of the justification. “It just took do d___ long for them to get us going. … So we figured it was time to get out of Port Orchard. We just wanted to pull out, get off of Bay Street, and get all the daggers out of our backs.”

Thornton, I believe, was referring to remarks by Coppola last year that bail bondsmen gave Port Orchard a bad image and suggestions he made that the city should make doing business on Bay Street uncomfortable for them.

Jim Boscola is a Port Orchard bail agent with another take on the city’s desire to move bail agencies off the main drag. “I don’t think he’s targeting our industry,” Boscola said of Coppola. “He’s made those types of comments against other types of businesses as well (i.e. dentists, lawyers and other professional who also don’t pay sales tax). From a city official’s perspective, they’re probably looking after their city.”

Boscola even sympathized with Coppola, saying, “Poor Lary. He seems like a nice guy, but they’re quick to judge him every time he opens his mouth.”

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