A petition to the Village of Athens
demanding that the Village Board’s decision to dissolve the Village Court be put to a public referendum was submitted yesterday, January 28, by justice David Cole, according to the Daily Mail
. The board voted late last year by a 3-2 margin to dissolve the court and transfer all its cases to the Town Court. Mayor Andrea Smallwood, Deputy Mayor Herman Reinhold, and Trustee Gail Lasher voted to dissolve; Robert June and Tom Sopris voted against the measure. According to the board’s vote, the court would be dissolved at the end of March, when Cole’s current term is set to expire. Cole, however, has since led the effort to have the decision put before the voters in a public referendum. According to New York State law, any decision rendered by a municipality can be turned over to the voters if a petition is signed by at least 20% of the registered voters who participated in the previous village election. Cole’s petition has 118 signatures. Last year, 1,153 voters participated in the village election. A final legal decision has not been rendered.
Village officials in favor of consolidating village cases into the Town Court say the decision was made because of financial considerations – they contend that last year, the Village Court operated at a deficit of more than $5,000, costing taxpayers money. But opponents say the court is not there as a money maker, but rather as a service to the residents of the village. Many of them say the decision should be up to the voters.