This is a letter posted on the Orleans Hub, with many ideas to consider.
More details needed on pros and cons of district court in Orleans County before public vote
Posted 10 July 2023 at 5:21 pm
I have been reading the posts on the Legislature’s committee to investigate the possibility of a district court for Orleans County.
There is a certain lack of transparency on the work of the committee, comprised of Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone, Sheriff Chris Bourke, Public Defender Joanne Best, Albion Town Justice Joe Fuller, First Assistant DA Susan Howard, County Chief Administrative Officer Jack Welch, former Gaines Town Justice Bruce Schmidt, County Legislator John Fitzak and County Legislator Skip Draper.
Specifically, the public needs to know how the study is being conducted. Who is preparing the study? Is it an independent third party? Will actual numbers be presented in the study? When will the study be completed? How can taxpayers get a copy of the study? Can you clarify the benefits of a district court over town courts? Are there other alternatives to abolishing the town courts? And finally, will any members of the committee benefit should the District Court be established? Will they take positions in the District Court?
This District Court, if successful, would abolish the local town courts throughout the county. This committee has already decided and will vote to bring this matter to a referendum vote in the November 2023 election without answering the questions above.
The notice of a public hearing was just released on the County website. It will be held on July 19 at 7 p.m. at the legislative Chambers 14016 Rt. 31 W. Albion, NY. Written comments can be submitted to the Clerk of the Legislature at 14016 Route 31 West, Albion, NY 14411. To be considered, comments must be received by 3:00 p.m. July 19.
From the articles already published in the Orleans Hub, some committee members have suggested that this district court will save the county and town money; however, no numbers have been released to support the statement.
A district court would have at least one attorney judge with a pay rate of about $200k/year. There would also be full-time clerks making approximately $80k/year. All of these jobs would come with full benefits.
A facility to house the district court would be an additional cost. In the Orleans Hub on May 11, 2022, Mr. Cardone and Ms. Best stated there would be state funding to bear much of the cost with district courts. According to Assemblyman Steve Hawley, no line item in the State budget covers the cost of district courts. Which of these statements is true?
The current Town Judges are active members of their communities who have served honorably for years. This attempt to abolish the Town Courts is curious and begs the question of why it is being looked into now. The county residents will lose access to their local Town Courts, and, as taxpayers, the residents could be on the hook for this unnecessary spending by the Legislature.
If the Legislature is committed to transparency, I ask that the study results be released, and the cost differential is presented in the Orleans Hub well before the November vote date.
Town of Shelby