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Problems in Clay County town persist, leaving ticketed drivers needing their licenses renewed no recourse

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RANDOLPH, Mo. -- Getting answers from someone in Randolph isn't easy. That's even when the man you are trying to speak to is a city alderman. His wife told us he probably wouldn't talk to us when we came to the door. She was right.

Don't even bother trying to get answers from City Hall. According to the sign out front, it's never open.

"It's ridiculous," said Missouri State Treasurer-elect Eric Schmitt. "This is the United States of America, not some banana republic."

As a state senator, Schmitt authored a law designed to prevent tiny towns like Randolph from being speed traps. Senate Bill 5 drastically limited the number of traffic tickets those towns could write, by limiting the total amount of revenue collected from traffic fines.

After the law passed in 2015, Randolph, which is situated near the casinos in Clay County, shut down its police department. (Randolph collected more than $300,000 in tickets and fines in 2014 alone.)

Randolph also closed its courthouse. It was located in a trailer, which happens to be the only public building in the town of 50 people. What Randolph didn't do is turn over its court records to Clay County Circuit Court, and that's causing a huge problem for many people, including Christina Ferrara.

"For the past three weeks, I've left phone calls every day," Ferrara said. "On their voice recorder it says every Friday they will give you a call back and this is my third Friday and still nothing."

Ferrara is desperately trying to reach someone in Randolph because she needs proof she paid a speeding ticket more than a year ago. Randolph never sent the paperwork showing the fine was paid to the Missouri Department of Revenue. Because of that oversight, Ferrara can't get her driver's license renewed.

When we told Schmitt about trouble people such as Ferrara are facing, he was shocked.

"The idea that they can't get a hold of anybody and they don't have an operating court -- and it's not really a city -- people ought to expect more out of their municipal leaders," Schmitt said.

He said if a town stops serving a purpose, its citizens should vote to dissolve. Randolph businessman Kevin Godsey doesn't expect that to ever happen, although there are many days he wishes it would.

"There's a strong contingency of people who have lived here a long time," said Godsey, who doesn't live in Randolph, and therefore could not vote on the issue. "They are very loyal to this area and don't want to see it change."

Godsey is frustrated with the city. He said in the 10 years he's operated his manufacturing business he's never met a single person from City Hall. He can't think of any service he gets for what he pays in taxes, except streetlights and the occasional snow plow.

"The roads are horrible," he said.

Another businessman told FOX 4 he receives no city services. He said the only time he hears from anyone in the city is when they want money.

Then there's Mayor Alan Long. The mayor is enough of a media darling to have appeared on the reality TV show Wife Swap -- but refused to talk to us. In fact, the only public official willing to answer questions was Alderwoman Susan McRill.

She acknowledged that even she was surprised that the city's court records had yet to be transferred to Clay County Circuit.

"I've got to agree I didn't think it would take this long, but the clerk is having health issues," McRill said.

Why not hire someone to help her? We pointed out that Randolph last year had about $300,000 in revenue.

"That seems high," McRill said.

But according to Randolph's city budget, which we found on the Missouri Auditor's website, proved our point. Last year, Randolph collected just under $200,000 in fines and court fees from its now defunct police department. Randolph took in another $100,000 from taxes and fees from various businesses, including a motel and gas station.

That's a lot of money for a city that doesn't even have a park and just two part-time employees who never appear to be at work. What does it do with the money?

McRill said it pays for trash and snow removal, and several years ago had to repave the roads. The alderwoman insisted there is nothing strange about Randolph. She said it's a nice town and has no plans to go away.

After we started reporting on this story, Ferrara, who needed a court document to get her license renewed, finally received it. However, we got a new complaint in November from someone else in a similar bind. She told us she'd been trying to reach someone in Randolph for months.

McRill said Randolph hopes to have its court records transferred to Clay County by January.