Lancaster Village Court will have a new face when it opens its doors Tuesday night after village officials hurried to appoint an interim prosecutor who is the bailiff’s stepson.
The Village Board’s unanimous appointment Monday night of Ryan P. Heller was effective immediately so that when court is held Tuesday, it can function with a prosecutor on hand – unlike in late August, when former Village Prosecutor Michael T. Dwan was forced to resign.
Heller, stepson of Village Court Bailiff Michael Murray, was hired as a temporary interim prosecutor at $667 per month until the village advertises for a permanent prosecutor and selects one.
Since Dwan’s resignation, the court had been rescheduling court cases for coming sessions. But Trustee Dawn M. Robinson, who backed Heller, said the court could not keep going without a prosecutor. The court, she said, was facing the prospect of losing funding and becoming nonfunctional.
Dwan resigned Aug. 20 after serving as village prosecutor for five months. Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III insisted Dwan could not serve as a municipal prosecutor because he was never granted the required formal designation by the district attorney after his April appointment by the Village Board.
Mayor Paul M. Maute insisted afterward that village paperwork on Heller’s appointment will be taken Tuesday morning to the District Attorney’s Office – as it was for Dwan – for immediate approval to allow him to work at court that same night.
Maute said he didn’t expect a problem with designation of the prosecutor as had occurred with Dwan.
The position of permanent village prosecutor pays $8,000 annually, with the one-year appointment running through next April.
Afterward, Maute acknowledged that Heller is Murray’s stepson and said that he was recommended by Village Justice Paul T. Bumbalo. “I didn’t know it was Mike Murray’s stepson until (Trustee) Ken O’Brien said something,” Maute said.
Maute said the board reached out to Bumbalo to recommend an interim prosecutor as soon as possible. Heller is a former intern in the District Attorney’s Office.
“We’re all aware,” Maute said of Heller’s connection to the bailiff.
“There’s no hidden agenda. We need a prosecutor, and we’re going to do interviews right away.”
Village officials said they plan to advertise soon for a permanent replacement and that Heller is welcome to apply. “Ryan is doing us a favor, basically,” Maute said.
Robinson said that Heller’s résumé was the only one brought forward to the board for the interim appointment, which she supported.
“I do support getting someone in on an interim basis and then allowing us to advertise properly,” she said.