By Jeff Gallatin
A final vote by City Council on Mayor Kevin Kennedy’s plans to form a North Olmsted mayor’s court is scheduled for Tuesday’s regular meeting. The plan continued to draw fire from others, with two more officials criticizing it at the Aug. 21 council meeting.
Kennedy’s predecessor as mayor, Thomas O’ Grady, and Rocky River Municipal Court Judge Donna Congeni-Fitzsimmons both spoke against it for the first time at the meeting on Aug. 21, when the proposal was on its second reading. They were joined by current Rocky River Clerk of Courts Deborah Comery and Administrative Judge Brian Hagan, who have spoken against it at several meetings.
Kennedy’s plan, which would move most traffic offenses and people who do not contest driving under the influence charges to a nighttime mayor’s court run by the city of North Olmsted, has drawn fire from officials from the municipal court, the other four cities that utilize the court besides North Olmsted, and North Olmsted Councilman at Large Mark Mahoney. The opponents say the Rocky River court is run efficiently and is one of the best in the state, adding that the loss of revenue if North Olmsted leaves will make the court less effective, could cause layoffs and will not provide the same level of services to offenders. They also have questioned whether North Olmsted will indeed realize the more than $200,000 Kennedy’s administration has said a mayor’s court should raise
annually. Mahoney has questioned whether the additional income for North Olmsted is worth the potential problems it will cause for Rocky River Municipal Court and for North Olmsted itself with the other communities.
In turn, Kennedy and his proponents say the additional income will aid North Olmsted during continued tight budget times, be more efficient and cost-effective than the Rocky River court and be more convenient for people who have to go to court. He has said his projected figures are based on information derived from the Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Court, to which he said North Olmsted’s would be similar in size.
In their remarks, O’Grady and Congeni-Fitzsimmons questioned whether the mayor’s court proposal is the best for those involved.
O’Grady, who also was a councilman and council president prior to becoming mayor, reminded meeting attendees that North Olmsted had considered a mayor’s court before and rejected it, with officials saying it would not be the best for the city. He also noted that Rocky River is not out of the way for people to get to, as opposed to, say, downtown Cleveland. He also did not see it as good government for North Olmsted, as opposed to staying in Rocky River court with its municipal neighbors.
Congeni-Fitzsimmons questioned whether the magistrate in a mayor’s court and court workers would get the same level of information and services available to court in the Rocky River Court. She also said a mayor’s court would not be as effective as the municipal court in providing services that would help deter some people from being repeat offenders.
Kennedy again maintained his figures are based on good numbers, saying a court would be more efficient for North Olmsted, as well as deriving additional income
for the city. He said offenders who need services, such as people who contest DUI charges, will still be able to get services in the Rocky River court.
He said he welcomed O’Grady’s speaking on a city-related issue, saying they just happen to differ on this issue. He also praised Congeni Fitzsimmon’ reputation as a judge and respected member of the community. He declined to speculate on the council vote Tuesday, saying he did not want to count his chickens before they were hatched.