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State Drops Lawsuit Against Child Support Collection Agency

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RALEIGH — When North Carolina's newcentralized child support collection systemlost thousands of checks in 1999, parents pointed the finger at Systems and Methods, Inc. (SMI), the agency hired by the state to handle collections. Parents filed a lawsuit, but their lawyer now says the problems are fixed, and the agency is not to blame.

Last year, Jennie Green wrote a research paper for a class at N.C. State on problems with the state's new child support collection system. She interviewed the lawyer representing her and other parents in a lawsuit against SMI.

"He was gung ho. He was sure there was a lawsuit. He was sure he could come out of this," she says. "I wonder what happened to change his mind? If it was there to start with, it should still be there."

Randy James, the attorney for the parents, settled the lawsuit out of court and absolved SMI of any blame. Green lost thousands of dollars in support for her three children when the system went online. She says she is disappointed.

"I still think that SMI should be held accountable for what they did. At this point so long afterwards, it probably will never happen, but I think it should," she says.

SMI officials say they stand behind their work. The company processes 20,000 transactions a day, most within 48 hours that adds up to about $2.5 million in child support.

"We were always confident that this would be the decision, it was the correct decision. We think we've overcome it, we've moved forward," says Lou Hall, SMI spokeswoman. "We worked together very well with the state during all of this. I think we, as well as the state, are ready to move forward, and put this behind us."

James says SMI was given a faulty database to work with. He also says his clients did not follow through with specifically documenting their cases.

In order to settle, James did not need the agreement of the parents. They are still free to pursue other lawsuits against SMI.


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