The Schenectady City Council has overridden a veto by Mayor Gary McCarthy in order to preserve the city’s four city court judges.
During his State of the City address in January, the Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy mayor cited a drop in caseloads over the years and looming costs of providing new court space as reasons to eliminate a judgeship.
“And the related requirements by the Office of Court Administration has the potential to cost the city in the range of $3 million.”
McCarthy’s estimate of up to $3 million comes from the cost of providing new court space at request of the state’s Office of Court Administration. McCarthy has also said he was not consulted when the state legislature approved a fourth city court judge for Schenectady in 2013.
One of the city’s judges is approaching 70, the mandatory retirement age.
In February, the city council voted 4 to 2, with one member absent, to keep the four city court judges. McCarthy vetoed the measure.
On a 5-2 vote Monday night, with councilman John Mooteveren’s yes vote, the council overturned that veto. Keeping the four judges has also been supported by the New York State Unified Court System.
The next question is where the new court space will go.
City Council President Ed Kosiur, a Democrat like McCarthy, wants to move the city’s engineering department out of the second floor of City Hall and into other city-owned office space on Foster Avenue. The vacant space, he says, could then be used to provide additional court space as requested by OCA.
“You’d have to work with OCA to approve those renovations because this is an old, historical building, as well, so that’s something we’re going to have to be aware of, this historical factor. But now you’d have all three courthouses right here on the same floor. Perfect for the judges, perfect for the OCA because now you’ve got the same court attendants here working and the same security measures, and it just makes perfect sense for the additional facility to be here at City Hall,” said Kosiur.
Kosiur said he made visits last week to learn more about how the courts operate in the city. He acknowledged the figures touted by the mayor that show a 26 percent drop in cases from 2013 to 2018.
“But that’s a case. But the case has beyond more than one visit with the judges. Many cases, I was told, between five to 10 appearances, of that same individual has to come back, before that case is resolved,” said Kosiur.
Prior to the veto override, the council approved 6 to 1 a measure that encourages the New York State Comptroller’s office to work with OCA, Schenectady’s state lawmakers, and the city to seek funding to address the cost of adding court space.
McCarthy only offered a brief comment after the veto override. He says he’s waiting to see what the state legislature will do.
“It’s an ongoing negotiated process,” said McCarthy.