By Jeff Gallatin
City officials are making final preparations for the January opening of the North Olmsted Mayor’s Court, with Mayor Kevin Kennedy appointing veteran magistrate David Lambros as the primary magistrate and City Council passing final legislation needed for starting the court.
Kennedy announced Lambros’ appointment Thursday, noting Lambros’ experience.
“Mr. Lambros has incredible experience and will be instrumental in establishing the new court professionally and efficiently,” Kennedy said.
Lambros, who has been involved in the operation of the Brookpark Mayor’s Court in several different capacities for 25 years, is presently the magistrate at Parma Municipal Court. He also has substituted at several different northern Ohio area mayor’s courts – including Cuyahoga Heights, North Royalton and Valley View.
Lambros said he will be able to serve as magistrate for both the North Olmsted Mayor’s Court and Parma’s Municipal Court.
“North Olmsted’s is going to be at night, which makes it separate from the others,” he said.
City officials have set the North Olmsted court sessions for 5 p.m. Thursdays, starting Jan. 3.
Lambros said his wide range of experience will help as North Olmsted gets its court set up.
“It’s an interesting process,” he said. “You have to work with the clerk and the others involved to make sure the docket is set up properly and that the process can run as smoothly as possible.”
Lambros said he appreciated North Olmsted Court Clerk Cathi Cole sitting in on some of his other court sessions to see how he runs a court session.
“She knows her business,” he said. “She’s very professional and works well with other people.”
Lambros noted he was involved in the starting of Brookpark mayor’s court, saying Kennedy and North Olmsted officials are making good steps.
“I have tremendous respect for Mayor Kennedy and what he has done for North Olmsted,” Lambros said. “I look forward to the challenges of starting a new court.”
Kennedy said he has allotted $30,000 for magistrate salaries, which would cover Lambros as well as substitute magistrates.
In council action, council at its Dec. 4 meeting passed several pieces of legislation needed for the startup of the court. Council passed the legislation 5-2, with Paul Barker, Lou Brossard, Kevin Kearney, Paul Schumann and Angela Williamson voting for it and Mark Mahoney and Larry Orlowski voting against it. Former Mayor Thomas O’Grady again spoke out against the court, while questioning finance Director Carrie Copfer about her thoughts on it and challenging Kennedy about it.
Among the council members, Barker, the finance committee chairman, said the legislation needed to be passed to keep the court process moving forward.
“They’re necessary steps to getting the court under way,” he said.
Mahoney said he was voting against the ordinances to remain consistent. Mahoney, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, has questioned the need to take much of North Olmsted’s business away from Rocky River Municipal Court, saying it is one of the most efficient municipal courts in the state.
Orlowski said he believes that the Rocky River court will have more resources to handle people dealing with driving under the influence.
“The court has the personnel in the probation department and the programs which will help at least some of the people charged from being repeat offenders,” Orlowski said. “That treatment will benefit them as people, and it also will help keep them from committing some other offenses again.”
In his objections, O’Grady again cited the starting of the North Olmsted Mayor’s Court as hampering the normal separation of powers between the mayor and administrative branch of government and the judicial system. He said it has the potential for the abuse of power because the magistrate and court would be responsible to the mayor. Kennedy again disputed this, saying the city will have a magistrate and clerk to run the court.
O’Grady also questioned Copfer about whether she supported the mayor’s court, noting that when North Olmsted previously had considered them when he was council president and mayor, she didn’t think they would be fiscally feasible for the city.
Copfer acknowledged her previous concerns, but noted Kennedy and his staff have done a large amount of research, showing how a mayor’s court could work in North Olmsted. When asked by O’Grady whether she believed as a personal political policy the court would be right, Copfer said her personal belief wasn’t relevant, noting her job managing finances, not policy, for the city.
O’Grady and Kennedy also clashed, with Kennedy asking O’Grady how a mayor’s court would harm citizens. O’Grady said he would educate Kennedy or attempt to, again saying the mayor’s court does away with the separation of powers between the administrative and judicial branches. Kennedy said he would look forward down the road to O’Grady acknowledging that the mayor is court was working for North Olmsted.