Bounced School-Lunch Check May Cost Washington State Parent $700

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Washington state mother may be forced to pay nearly $700 after bouncing a $30 check to pay for her two children's high school lunches, school and debt collections officials said on Friday.

Christina Johnson-Conley bounced a check last year to pay for the equivalent of about 10 lunches at North Thurston High School in Lacey, south of Seattle, said district spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve.

The school sent two letters, one last November and another in May, asking for the money, and then a final letter advising Johnson-Conley it was turning the debt over to a collection agency, Schrieve said.

"We often have people in these situations and all they have to do is call us and say 'Can I make a payment plan?' That did not happen," Schrieve said, adding that the school was accountable to taxpayers and state auditors.

The collection firm, Grimm Collections of Tumwater, declined to discuss the specifics of the case but agency owner David Grimm said that in general consumers get multiple debt-collection phone calls and notices.

Grimm filed a lawsuit and a Thurston County court issued a judgment in July for $535 that preceded a wage garnishment order on Sept. 15. Taken together, the agency's fee, court costs, monthly interest, and attorney and processing fees added up to roughly $695, Grimm said.

Johnson-Conley, who has worked as a nursing consultant, did not immediately respond to interview requests.

Local broadcaster KOMO reported she was outraged over the amount and was never served with court papers. If that were true, Grimm said she would have the opportunity to appear in court to contest the service.

The school said as of Wednesday it had still not received any money.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

School Lunches From Around The World