By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — JAY — Jay residents have the opportunity to decide whether to retain a second town-justice position by voting in a special election Wednesday.
Voting is from noon to 8 p.m. for Election District 1 at the Jay Community Center, 11 School Lane in AuSable Forks, and District 2 at the Amos and Julia Ward Theatre at 12 Parkside Drive in Jay.
A “yes” vote would eliminate one of two Jay town justice positions, while a “no” vote would not eliminate the justice position.
Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas and members of the Town Council favor doing away with the second justice post, while Fred Balzac, who is running for a Jay Town Council seat on the Green Party, and Rosamond Lincoln-Day, an independent candidate for the justice post that is up for removal, support keeping the position.
REASONS FOR OPPOSITION
Balzac successfully petitioned to put the justice question on a special election ballot.
He said he did so because people “want more open, transparent local government that seeks the input of more than just a handful of townspeople.”
The second justice job is held by Robert Minogue, who is running for re-election this year as an independent. The third candidate is independent Rodney Dockum.
Balzac said he and Lincoln-Day are citing several reasons for voting down the effort to eliminate the justice position: overcoming conflict of interest when one judge is faced with a case involving relatives or others he or she knows well, lack of significant financial savings, unpredictable caseloads and reducing the opportunity for corruption.
Minogue has been criticized for going to Florida during the winter and at other times, but he defended himself in a Press-Republican Letter to the Editor on Monday saying he is always available, has kept up with his caseload and often flies back at his own expense to conduct court sessions.
Douglas said the other justice, Daniel Deyoe, told the town he could handle the caseload if the second position were eliminated.
“The town board had some constituents bring concerns to them regarding the availability of Judge Minogue in some of the winter months,” Douglas said in an email.
“Elected public officials create their own hours and answer directly to the public. It is illegal for a town council to direct any town justice regarding the schedule they work.”
Each justice receives a fixed annual salary of $9,499, which the town is considering raising to $12,000 for a single justice if voters OK the plan.
Douglas said they have numerous reasons why eliminating a justice would be good for the town, including: the Town of Jay previously operated with one justice at less cost with no problems; the average annual caseload can legitimately be handled by one justice; and there would be a predicted cost savings in salary and annual training expenses of at least $7,000.
“(The) Town Council scrutinizes all spending of taxpayer dollars, and in our opinion, this decision to eliminate one justice is a wise financial move,” Douglas wrote in an email.
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