By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A woman who holds a unique position with county government will be retiring later this year, much to the disappointment of her boss.
"She's really turned things around," Hill County Attorney David Rice said of county restitution officer Barb Mavencamp. "She'll be tough to replace."
For the past 5 years, Mavencamp has been responsible for developing a system to receive and distribute fines and restitution payments for two separate courts. She will retire on Aug. 29.
"My job is probably best described as the three R's," Mavencamp said Monday. "I either remind, revoke, reinstate, or continue sentences."
When a person is convicted of a civil or criminal offense that requires compensation, Maven-camp ensures that restitution payments go where they're supposed to.
Mavencamp is the first person to ever hold the position of county restitution officer in Hill County, a spot Rice created in 1998 after Hill County Justice Court and state District Court had a number of difficulties monitoring restitution payments.
"My office tried to handle the restitution aspect of it," Rice said, "but we couldn't give it the attention it deserved."
After a staff meeting, it was decided that a part-time position would be created to handle the caseload, he said.
The result was a more efficient system that better serves the victims, he said. Rice said he believes Hill County is one of the few counties in Montana to employ a restitution officer. In many of the counties, the clerk of courts is responsible for the task, he added.
The restitution officer position faces an uncertain future. During the past legislative session, lawmakers passed a measure that would hand the restitution duties over to the Montana Department of Corrections, meaning the county would no longer be responsible for receiving and distributing money.
Rice said he opposes the measure. The job is one that is better suited for the local level, he said.
"How will they collect money from Havre in Helena?" Rice asked. "I just don't understand it."
The Hill County Attorney's Office is meeting with DOC officials to hopefully reach a resolution, Rice added. The office is seeking a replacement for Mavencamp, he said.
During her tenure as county restitution officer, Mavencamp has been responsible for a number of achievements. She has established written procedures to monitor restitution, fine and fee payments, operated a custom computer program that tracks payment progress, and expedited the turnaround time between receiving and distributing funds, according to a final progress report submitted April 25 to the Hill County commissioners.
In a press release, Rice lauded the efficiency of the the computerized system Mavencamp operates.
"As you can see, she has streamlined the office with the use of a customized computer program and returned thousands of dollars to innocent victims," the release said.
Spectrum Sound and Computers was responsible for designing the computer program, Rice said today.
During the past five years, Mavencamp has monitored an average of 374 cases a year, according to the press release. An average of 353 checks totaling $62,714 have been paid to victims each year, the release said.
Mavencamp's efficiency has "done a lot for the victims," Rice said.
Although part of her job includes receiving payments from defendants, Mavencamp cautioned against viewing her as a debt collector.
"We're not a collections agency; we just follow the courts' orders," she said.
Mavencamp said she finds her job satisfying.
"There's the satisfaction of seeing victims receive compensation," she said, adding that "there's a certain amount in seeing people convicted of crimes make restitution and lead normal lives."
Mavencamp said if she could relive her 5 years as county restitution officer, there is little she would do differently.
"I'm very pleased with the way things turned out and the way I left the position," she said.
Rice said Mavencamp should be proud of her accomplishments as the first county restitution officer.
"She's done amazingly well," he said. "She created the program from the ground up."
Mavencamp said she plans to pursue community service after she retires.
Friends of the Library is one group she would really like to participate in, though she does "have some other things in mind," she said.