Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Council denies judge's plan
Council believes the money it gave the court was sufficient. The judge disagrees.
GIRARD Judge Michael Bernard of municipal court here has come up with another plan to fund the court through the end of the year, but city council has refused to accept it.
After a lengthy court battle and much wrangling by council and court representatives, council earlier this year agreed to appropriate about $800,000 to the court for 2006. Those funds, however, have been exhausted and additional money must be appropriated for the judge to make his next payroll.
In a letter from Judge Bernard to Councilman Frank Migliozzi, the judge says he will use $143,000 from the court's restricted funds to help meet his funding obligations through the end of the year, but he asked council to appropriate an additional $71,000 to the court.
The additional $71,000 is $14,326 more than a funding request previously rejected by council. The court has about $250,000 in special fund accounts.
In the letter, Judge Bernard explains that the $14,326 is needed because he "simply forgot to include the cost associated with the termination of four court employees."
The judge previously agreed to terminate two security personnel and a computer person, eliminate cleaning services, and not fill a position once the clerk of courts retires to reduce the court's operating costs. Those associated costs include severance pay and unemployment compensation.
Judge Bernard also asked council to cover all health-care costs for court employees through the end of the year.
At its meeting Monday, council unanimously rejected the judge's request. Migliozzi issued a statement to the judge detailing the reasons for council's action.
"This is woefully inadequate in meeting what we asked for and what the appellate court has stated," Migliozzi said. "[Judge Bernard] fails to see that the appellate court has stated that he needs to make reductions in processing."
In his response, Migliozzi tells the judge that council disagrees that the $800,000 appropriated to the court was insufficient to meet the court's needs through the end of the year.
Migliozzi also takes issue with some of the judge's cost-saving mechanisms such as laying off security and dismissing the cleaning service in the court. He states that the cost of providing these services will only shift to the city, therefore, providing no real savings to the city.
Migliozzi's response also takes issue with several other items in the judge's plan to save money and suggest a few changes to court operations such as moving a metal detection device to the second floor of the building where the court is located so "the monitoring can be shared more closely by the court's personnel and perhaps reduce the number of personnel required." The machine is currently on the first floor near the building's entrance.