By Jeff Gallatin
City officials are putting the finishing touches on getting the new mayor’s court ready for its first official session the evening of Jan. 17.
North Olmsted city police began writing tickets last Thursday with a summons for the mayor’s court instead of for the Rocky River Municipal Court. Mayor Kevin Kennedy selected Robert E. “Skip” Lazzaro, the acting judge and magistrate for Berea Municipal Court, as an additional magistrate for the mayor’s court. He joins primary Magistrate David Lambros in having the ability to hear the traffic offenses. City Council also approved at its Jan. 2 meeting setting up a petty cash account and other related mayor’s court legislation. Clerk of Court Cathi Cole said Friday the setup process is going well.
“Everything is falling into place,” she said. “There’s often a minor glitch or two whenever you set something new up, but things have been going pretty smoothly.”
Cole said Lambros is scheduled to hear the cases when the court gets under way at 5 p.m. Jan. 17, but noted Lazzaro plans to attend and observe.
“We’re all planning to be there, since it’s the first time, and see how it goes,” she said. “That way if we see anything we can to do to make it better, we can do it.”
Referring to the officers now writing tickets for the mayor’s court instead of Rocky River Municipal Court, Cole said that also has gone smoothly so far.
“We had seven come in overnight Thursday morning,” Cole said. “We’ve had about 20 so far today (as of midafternoon Friday), and we’ve even had a payment already.”
North Olmsted Police Department Capt. Mike Kilbane said the transition has also gone smoothly for the department.
“Kathi Cole is extremely well-organized and knows her job well, which has made it easier for everybody in putting the court together,” he said. “The process of doing the ticket and getting it to the mayor’s court instead of to the Rocky River Municipal Court is very similar, so that hasn’t been a difficult transition for the officers at all.”
In the Lazzaro appointment, Kennedy said he’s eager to have Lazzaro as part of the team.
“Skip’s experience will be very valuable to the new court,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he’s pleased with the many years of experience Cole, Lambros and Lazzaro have.
“They’re all highly experienced in dealing with court matters and should make this a good court for everybody,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy reiterated that court officials will be running the day-to-day activities of the court, and that he will not be involved in the cases or court decisions. Some critics of the new court have said it will present the opportunity for potential abuse of power by a mayor.
Lazzaro said he is looking forward to the upcoming challenge of a new court.
“The North Olmsted Mayor’s Court is a new venture, and I’m excited to be part of creating a new entity in hopes of making North Olmsted a better place to reside.”
Council members said they’re glad to see the court moving forward and will be watching to see how it develops.
“All the pieces seem to be falling into place,” Angela Williamson, the council safety committee chairwoman who voted for forming the mayor’s court said. “The legislation has been passed and the people involved seem to know their business. It will be interesting to see the first quarter figures when they come in.”
Councilman-at-large Mark Mahoney, who has been a consistent critic of forming the mayor’s court, said he voted against the latest related legislation to maintain consistency.”
Mahoney has said there was no need for the mayor’s court, defending the Rocky River Municipal Court as one of the best in the state. He also has questioned whether the court will net several hundred thousand annually, as Kennedy’s administration has projected.