By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy’s proposal to form a mayor’s court likely won’t receive final consideration from City Council until late July or August.
City Council President Duane Limpert and Finance Committee Chairman Paul Barker both indicated Monday they don’t foresee the matter being concluded before council takes its summer break in July. Acting as a committee of the whole at a special June 12 meeting to consider the proposal, council voted 6-0 (Ward 1 Councilman Lou Brossard was out of town on business) to hold the proposal in committee. Council members cited a desire to review information on the proposal provided to them by Kennedy that week as well as additional information provided by Deborah Comery, clerk of Rocky River Municipal Court.
“I’ve been checking with other council members and right now I’m not getting much sentiment for having any special council meetings to try and get this done right now,” said Limpert, who as council president must call any committee-of-the whole meeting. “Mayor Kennedy wants it to go to a full three readings for consideration. We have the regular second June meeting set June 19 (last night) right now, and that’s it right now for anything for the full council before the July break.
Kennedy is proposing having North Olmsted take much of its tickets and minor traffic matters from Rocky River Municipal Court and form a separate mayor’s court, leaving not guilty pleas and other more serious offenses in Rocky River Municipal Court. Kennedy has said forming a separate North Olmsted mayor’s court will be more efficient for the city and save money and time for defendants. However, court and municipal officials from the other four cities (Bay Village, Fairview Park, Rocky River and Westlake) involved in the city contend he is underestimating the time and costs of forming and running a court. They also say the loss of income from losing much of North Olmsted will result in employee layoffs and a less efficient court.
Kennedy said Monday he is content with the pace at which the proposal is moving forward.
“That’s up to council,” he said of when it would give final consideration to the legislation. “I’m not in a giant hurry on this.”
Kennedy said if the legislation passes in August, there still would be sufficient time to enact a court at the start of 2013.
Both Limpert and Barker said the proposal deserves a full and detailed review by council. Although Kennedy has issued an executive order saying he intends to form the court and have it start at the beginning of 2013, for it to be run, council must appropriate its operating money.
“It’s a major change from how it has been done for years,” Limpert said. “I want to talk to some people I know from cities involved in the Berea Municipal Court, some of them have mayor’s courts as well. I also want to look at all the numbers involved in this and see how it looks.”
Barker said the proposal deserves a good review.
“We just received the financial numbers not only from Mayor Kennedy, but from Clerk of Courts Comery as well, and I want to go through and crunch them as well as ask some questions after I get through going through the numbers,” he said. “That’s not something I want to rush through, and based on what I heard at the meeting (June 12), other council members feel the same way. Early July is tough because that’s not that far away in terms of time. Plus, since it’s our normal break month, several people have vacations set.”
Barker noted that some of the financial aspects of the proposal could gothrough the finance committee, and there is still some time, since proposal has the court starting at the beginning of 2013.
“We can still give people time to look this over, before we act upon it,” he said.
Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst Monday reiterated comments she made at the June 12 meeting, that she and court officials would like the opportunity to discuss the matter further with Kennedy and other North Olmsted officials.
“I’ve told Mayor Kennedy that my door is open and would like to discuss the matter further,” she said.
During the meeting, Bobst said she and other officials would have liked the chance to discuss the matter with Kennedy before he formally notified them in May of his plans. Part of the June 12 meeting was discussion on efficiency of courts and the cost of running them.
Bobst and Comery both indicated that they believe Kennedy is underestimating the costs of running a court. Kennedy said the city of North Olmsted can run the mayor’s court more efficiently with fewer employees.
“If the mayor wants to discuss possible ways of making the court efficient, we are more than willing to sit down and talk about that,” Bobst said.
Officials from the other cities expressed concern about a mayor’s court being under the control of the North Olmsted mayor and not more independent. Kennedy reiterated that there will be a separate magistrate and that he has no intention of presiding over the court.