Judge Ronald Brockmeyer of Ferguson presided in Ferguson for more than a decade and is mentioned in the Justice Department's report about the city that criticized the court's use of sometimes excessive and unnecessary fees.
That Justice Department review also found that Missouri's troubled Ferguson Police Department engaged in a broad pattern of racially biased enforcement that permeated the city's justice system, including the use of unreasonable force against African American suspects. The report criticized the city's municipal court system and included Brockmeyer's boasts about increasing the court fees.
Citing a report from the finance director to city council, the Justice Department pointed out that Brockmeyer had been "successful in significantly increasing court collections over the years."
The report also includes a list of what the judge did to help in the areas of court efficiency and revenue. That list that Brockmeyer drafted approvingly highlighted the creation of additional fees, many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful, according to the Justice Department. The city of Ferguson repealed some of the fees, including a "failure to appear fine," during the Justice Department's investigation.
But Judge Brockmeyer was far from the only problem. Now the City Manager has resigned in disgrace as well over this scheme.
Ferguson's chief executive resigned Tuesday night, becoming the latest in a string of law enforcement officers and officials to leave their posts following the release of a scathing Department of Justice report.
John Shaw, 39, had served as Ferguson's city manager since 2007, according to the New York Times. The newspaper reported that Shaw's resignation was announced at a city council meeting where members of the Council unanimously approved a "mutual separation agreement."
The DOJ report, which was released last week, found alleged racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department, municipal jail and court. The report named Shaw as having overseen Ferguson's operations while the city implemented policies to increase revenue that discriminated against black residents, according to the Times.
Shaw denied in his resignation letter that his office had anything to do with implementing policies that discriminated against some Ferguson residents.
"While I certainly respect the work that the D.O.J. recently performed in their investigation and report on the City of Ferguson, I must state clearly that my office has never instructed the Police Department to target African-Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor,” he wrote, as quoted by the newspaper. “Any inferences of that kind from the report are simply false.”
But you did nothing to stop it, did you Mr. Shaw. Sorry to see you out of a job, I guess. When the vast majority of black citizens in Ferguson had outstanding warrants over court fees, it's not hard to imagine the guy in charge of balancing the books looking the other way when the cops would go roll black residents and shake them down for cash, especially when the city got a cut.
To see this happening in 2015 isn't surprising, but it is disturbing.