CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A legislative auditor called on lawmakers to consider pushing a state agency to regulate West Virginia bail bondsmen, who currently must abide by sometimes-nebulous bail bonding rules that are enforced differently from one county to the next.
Michael Castle, a researcher in the legislative auditor's office, told members of the Joint Committee on Government Organization Tuesday that the West Virginia Insurance Commission should have the authority over the state's commercial bail bonding industry, rather than individual county entities.
The auditor's office released a report that found that West Virginia is one of only six states in the nation in which the county government - usually circuit court judges - regulate bondsmen.
The report notes that 39 states have statutory language that establishes a regulatory agency to oversee bail bonding, mostly for licensing purposes. Twenty-five of those states gave that responsibility to their respective insurance commissioners.
"The disadvantages of light or inadequate regulations are a higher risk of corruption, and unscrupulous treatment by bail bond agents on those seeking bail," the report states.
But state Insurance Commissioner Michael D. Riley said in response to the report that his office is not prepared to bear the burden of regulating the industry.
Riley said that the insurance commission would have to create a separate division and spend too much money hiring staff and buying equipment to deal with the new responsibilities. His current staffers are not trained in criminal matters, he said.