North Olmsted starting mayor's court | News
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy says he intends to start a mayor's court beginning January 1, 2013. This is expected to bring in as much as $250,000 annually.
"This makes sense for us," Kennedy said. "People get tickets in North Olmsted. The residents here are paying for those police cars, the police officers, the roads and the lights. We want to keep those tickets here in North Olmsted." Meanwhile, the decision was met with understandable resistance by officials close to the Rocky River Municipal Court, which currently handles all of North Olmsted's court cases.
"If we choose to handle cases on our own, that's our prerogative," Kennedy said. "Rocky River court exists for us; we don't exist for Rocky River court."
Kennedy said he informed Rocky River Clerk of Courts Deborah Comery and Mayor Pam Bobst earlier this month that he would be instituting the mayor's court by the first of the year, in order to give Rocky River time to adjust its protocols.
"It's a no-brainer for our community," he said. "It's absolutely something worth fighting for. I know other mayors may be up in arms, but look, I run this city. I can't do what's best for their city." Under Kennedy's mayor's court, traffic citations and misdemeanor charges will be handled by magistrates in the council chambers at North Olmsted City Hall. Bigger cases and more serious offenses in North Olmsted would continue to fall under the jurisdiction of the Rocky River court.
North Olmsted writes nearly 7,500 traffic citations and misdemeanors each year, Kennedy said. Kennedy said the first order of business would be to hire a full-time court clerk, which he would like to have done by October. The court clerk post would pay in the range of $45,000-50,000 with benefits, he said. There will also be a part-time clerk and one or two part-time magistrates to hear cases. Kennedy will not personally preside over cases in the new court.
According to the mayor, the new court could bring about some pleasant changes for residents and even those ticketed in North Olmsted. Court costs would be significantly lower than those in Rocky River, he said. He is looking at the possibility of having court hearings at night to accommodate defendants' work schedules. Having the option for online payment of waiverable fines is also under consideration, Kennedy said. Another benefit would be keeping the additional money local, in order to fund road repairs and safety forces. "It's a quarter of a million dollars a year that the North Olmsted taxpayers could see put back on their streets," he said.