Jay Supervisor and Essex County Board Chairman Randy Douglas.
There will be one fewer justices in the Town of Jay starting Jan. 1.
Residents of the town voted 245-148 Oct. 16 in favor of a town resolution eliminating the town justice position currently held by Robert Minogue. That will leave Dan Deyoe as the lone town justice, overseeing cases at the Au Sable Forks Community Center Monday nights.
Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas said he was pleased the voters validated the decision made by the town council in July to move forward with the departmental change.
“I am happy that we had a good, large turnout for a special election like this,” Douglas said. “I honestly believe that we have done what is in the best interest of the town of Jay.”
Minogue, whose term expires at the end of 2013, is currently on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot for re-election to a position that has now officially been done away with. He was being opposed by Green Party Candidate Rosamond Lincoln-Day.
The vote, known as a permissive referendum, was forced after a petition was filed by Green Party town council candidate Fred Balzac in August, who felt the town had not been transparent in making the decision to eliminate the position and that the change would have a negative effect on the office. Balzac and Day had been campaigning on that platform.
“Although we were unable to persuade a majority of voters that eliminating the second Town Justice position is a bad idea, I think we, as Greens, can be proud of what we achieved with this effort,” Balzac said. “Nearly 400 townspeople had a say in this decision, rather than only five members of the town board. The turnout for a one issue special election held on a Wednesday in mid-October is astounding when you think about it, and it bodes well for increased interest in the Nov. 5 general election and for public engagement in the future.”
Douglas said because the town had already made the decision to cut the justices by one, there was already a plan in place for the transition.
“At the end of December, the position currently held by Judge Minogue will be eliminated and there will be the one judge (Deyoe) and he will handle the court docket every Monday night instead of having the judges work on a rotating basis. That serves the purposes that we need.”
Douglas also said because there is no change in court hours, there will be no change in revenues.
“You will still have court the same number of nights so there is no revenue that we will lose,” he said. “Honestly, we did what we thought was best. We always take a hard look at our budget and we have been able to average a 1.75 percent increase during my time as supervisor, which is something not too many towns can say, especially after all that we have been through.”
Balzac said the petition to force a vote on the matter may just be the first of many more efforts by his party intended to, “open,” the governmental process.
“This may be prove to be the opening salvo of a local-government reform effort that highlights the need for more open, transparent and inclusive decision-making not only in the Town of Jay, but in towns throughout Essex County and by our county government as a whole,” he said. “We urge other parties, organizations and especially individual citizens in our towns and county to join in.”
This story was updated to include remarks from Fred Balzac