The ongoing debate over whether the Village of Lancaster should abolish its court grew intense Monday, particularly between two village trustees, one who is aggressively pushing it and the other who favors an independent evaluation.
It was an ideal setting for the showdown – in the village courtroom – with nearly 50 people packing the seats in one of the most well-attended village meetings in months.
Trustee Russell Sugg wants the Village Court dissolved immediately, saying it amounts to a duplication of services since a two-justice Town Court is in place.
Trustee Dawn Robinson was equally as vocal, saying the village should not rush into eliminating its court and that it merits a thorough study.
Most trustees favor delaying action until the village is able to apply for a state grant to secure money next year to hire an independent consultant to evaluate court operations. On Tuesday, Sugg drafted a resolution for the board to vote on Monday night, committing it to apply for the grant next year.
Robinson called Sugg’s proposal “smoke and mirrors,” noting there is state grant money available next May to study the issue. She also said the village will be unable to dissolve the court until 2017, when the term of Village Justice Paul Bumbalo expires.
Sugg has been adamant about scrapping the court since March.
“We are losing far more than anyone wanted to admit,” said Sugg. “The numbers are bad, and getting worse every year.”
Robinson, whose husband is on the town police force, argues that fiscal numbers don’t necessarily reveal poor efficiency.
“I don’t want to be penny wise and dollar foolish, and lose our autonomy,” she said. “Sometimes, just the numbers alone don’t equate to efficiency.”
Sugg has been talking up his idea throughout the community, even at Town Board meetings.
Robinson, however, sees an ulterior motive – a campaign platform for Sugg to run next fall for a Town Board seat.
Sugg, she said, has emerged as the Village Board maverick on many topics and appears to be aligning himself with town Republican Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli.
“You keep putting this out there, as a maverick, an opportunist,” Robinson told him. “This is too important to rush. You have a political timeline. You have a tendency to be disingenuous because you have a different agenda.”