- Audits revealed in a single year, the small village collected more money through fines and forfeitures, primarily traffic tickets, than almost any other municipality
- Those who have a gripe must appeal to Fenton town’s mayor, Mayor Eddie Alfred, Jr., responsible for the town’s finances and also the town’s judge
A tiny town in Louisiana with a population of 226 people raked in more than a $1 million in a single year – just as much as Louisiana’s third largest city that has nearly nine times the population by targeting drivers.
Fenton, located in Jefferson Davis Parish, has just one main road, one library, one gas station, one town hall.
In June 2022, a staggering $1.3 million was generated through fines and forfeitures, just as much revenue as Shreveport, which has a population of 187,000.
The teeny village collected its revenue primarily traffic tickets, more than almost any other municipality in Louisiana in a single year, audits revealed, ProPublica reported.
Those who have a gripe with their ticket or fines must appeal to Fenton town’s mayor, Mayor Eddie Alfred, Jr., who appears to serve a dual role.
He is responsible for the town’s finances and also is the town’s judge. As the judge, he appoints the prosecutors, and if drivers request a trial, he decides if they are guilty or innocent.
The fines were collected through the ‘mayor’s court’. Its purpose is to process the thousands of speeding tickets that were written up yearly by officers from the Fenton police department.
The revenue collected reportedly contributes to part of the salaries of the mayor, the clerk, and others, the news outlet revealed.
The village located in Jefferson Davis Parish is compromised of approximately twenty blocks. The tiny town has a city hall, a gas station, a church, a library, a dollar store, and some public housing units.
Those who drive along the one-mile stretch of highway – located between central Louisiana and east Texas along US Route 165 – are either town residents or those heading to east Texas from central Louisiana.
Mike Holmes, Fenton’s village attorney told WVUE-TV and ProPublica in an email that the mayor presides over court in a ‘neutral, impartial manner’ consistent with Louisiana law.
He also claimed that tickets are only dismissed at his discretion.
However, the village’s court records show a different story on how some tickets are handled, and revealed the challenges they faced trying to get answers.
Journalists from WVUE and ProPublica who were trying to find out exactly how the court in Fenton operates visited the town four different times. During those visits, they reviewed court files, town meeting minutes, municipal ordinances and body camera video.
They also requested electronic case summaries over a three-and-a-half year period. Though they tried to see the court in action, they reported that they were only able to witness court one time. They also noted that they were only got to speak with the mayor for five minutes.
Many officials offered conflicting explanations for the mayor’s role, how and why tickets are reduced or dismissed, why the town asks the state to suspend so many drivers’ licenses and how often trials are held.
Their description of how the town runs its court didn’t align with state Judicial College guidance or that U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Joel Friedman, an emeritus professor at Tulane University in New Orleans who has taught procedural law for 46 years, told ProPublica: ‘There’s no accountability. They can do whatever they want.’
‘The mayor who’s trying to raise money for the city is in charge of prosecuting these minor criminal offenses and getting fines brought back to the city,’ he added.
Another attorney, who wrote a book about the matter, agreed with Friedman and told the news outlet that Fenton shouldn’t allow the mayor to preside over court.