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Peninsula makes motion to remove mayor's court from village bench

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published: March 10, 2013 12:00 AM

Peninsula -- The mayor's court in one northern Summit County municipality is closing its doors.

The Village of Peninsula, which has had a mayor's court for about 40 years, is in the process of shutting its local court down, according to Mayor Douglas Mayer.

"We are in the process right now of eliminating it," Mayer said March 6.

The decision to close the court was made for financial reasons, Mayer said.

"Our mayor's court has not been very productive and there have been some months where it has not made a profit at all," Mayer said.

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The court cost the village $50,000 in 2012 to operate, Mayer said. The village only made $4,000 in profit, collecting $54,000 from fines, according to Mayer.

"We were generating payroll, that's all we were doing," Mayer said. "And our community is in a situation where every penny means something."

However, in 2012, the village would have received about $20,000 in fines if misdemeanor and traffic violators were sent to Stow Municipal Court, instead of the village court, Mayer said.

Judge: Mayor's courts 'destroy checks and balances'

A letter from Stow Municipal Court Judge Kim Hoover, brought the mayor's court financial issues to the village, Mayer said.

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Hoover said he is "philosophically opposed to mayor's courts because they are not consistent with our democracy's basic component of three separate but equal branches." The executive branch, which includes the mayor, controls the police department, according to Hoover.

"When the mayor establishes a mayor's court, they then control the judicial branch as well since they sit as judge or appoint the magistrate who serves at the mayor's pleasure," Hoover said. "Why should the judicial branch be controlled by the executive? It destroys the checks and balances that our forefathers so brilliantly crafted."

According to Hoover, mayors who run the courts "feel the need to meet the financial obligations of their towns and rightfully so."

However, "they should not be using a court to provide revenue as their first mission when the court must be first concerned with doing justice," Hoover said.

Hoover has "advocated the abolishment of mayor's courts" for his entire 18-year judicial career, he said. Hoover added that he was "pleased" when Hudson and Reminderville shut down their mayor's court within the last 10 years.

"The only justification for such courts besides revenue production is convenience to traffic violators who are issued citations," Hoover said. Hoover contends municipal courts are "better able to provide real justice," he said.

Mayer agreed that the police department and court system should not be "money makers" he said.

When Mayer first met with Hoover to discuss the financial implications of the court, he decided it would continue, he said.

"That's before I had all the numbers," Mayer added.

After reviewing the books and another meeting with Hoover, Mayer decided to close the court.

As part of the process, and to keep the village from laying off the village clerk of courts, Hoover agreed "absorb" the clerk into the Stow court, Mayer said.

As part of village preparations to close the court, officers began issuing citations March 1 for violators to appear in Stow Municipal Court, Mayer said.

"Today [March 6] was our last court date," Mayer said.

However, there are still about 10 years of cases that must be gone through, Mayer said. The village needs to determine if fines from those cases can be collected, or if the violators are dead.

"Those cases have to be cleared," Mayer said.

Mayer described the decision to close the court as "tough."

"There are no books on how to close a court, but all kinds of books on opening a court," Mayer said. "We are fortunate we have good enough people here to get it done -- it's just not going to be quick."

Mayer is not sure when the final case will be cleared, but believes the process will stretch into April.

Unlike Peninsula, the Village of Boston Heights has no plans to close its mayor's court, Mayor Bill Goncy said March 6.

The court, which has been around for about 40 years handled more than 2,400 cases in 2012 and the village received more than $420,000 in revenue, according to Goncy.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

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speakingout Mar 19, 2013 5:38 PM

The problem is the Mayor of Peninsula makes all of these decisions on his own. He thinks he owns the town and that the people we elected on our Council to run the town have no say at all. He's always sneaking behind everyone's backs since he took office.

Mayor Mayer speaks of the Village being in such a financial bind but he doesn't want to make cuts where they can to save money. He has hired his "friends" to work and doesn't want to hinder their welfare. We have one in the road department that he hired full time in June to give him family health coverage but he refuses to cut him back to part time as stated in the June 2012 minutes. It states in the minutes that if there were financial issues for the Village the persons status would change but as Mayor Mayer says now "it's not fair". Last I knew there wasn't many things in this world that's fair - that's life! Move on and find something else like the other people in the world.

The Village also has two part time people helping the Clerk of the Village now so we went from a full time Clerk paying her benefits to a part time Clerk with two assistants and it cost the Village more now then it did for the full time clerk with benefits. I'm sure there's not that much office work that we need two people to assist the Clerk.

Mayor Mayer also stated at the February meeting that there wasn't money to hire a full time police chief when it wasn't the person of his liking to fill the spot, as the one he chose didn't past the test to be hired. Not that the person hasn't worked for the Village police department for 20 years and knows the job without having to have any further training. But now we should go for another three months with a police department that has no order so the Mayor can see if he can find someone that he likes to hire. But once the decision was made not to hire the person that was recommended by the committee the Council put together then at the March Council meeting then the Mayor stated to place an ad in the West Sid Leader for a full time police chief.

It's just amazing how the Village comes up with money for whatever the Mayor thinks suits him but he really doesn't care at all about the welfare of the community that he was elected to run.

Believe me the people in this Village have made some mistakes before in elections but this is the biggest one ever and I'm sure they'll regret it. If the Village survives another two years with him in office we'll be lucky. I see us going bankrupt and just because the Mayor doesn't want to listen to the Council that's suppose to be running our community! That's what we elected them for.

Maybe if some of the people in this community really knew what was going on behind closed doors then things would be different. I'm sure people would start speaking out before they don't have a quaint Village to speak of.