Licking County News

Potential changes to mayor's court: fee increase, new post

By

Pataskala City Council is expected to vote next month on potential changes to the city's mayor's court.

City Council on Aug. 18 heard the second reading of an ordinance that would increase the basic mayor's court costs from $21 to $26.

Kip Kelsey, the Pataskala Mayor's Court magistrate, described the potential changes to City Council on Aug. 18.

Kelsey said the city has not increased its court fees in five years. The extra funds would help pay for law books and paper, he said.

City Council also heard the second reading of an ordinance to hire an administrative receptionist, which would allow Tonia McFerin to become a full-time employee of Pataskala Mayor's Court.

If that is approved, the city would need to hire another full-time employee to answer phones and do work for city administrators.

Kelsey said McFerin has divided her time for many years, working part time in mayor's court and part time as a receptionist for the city.

"She does not have time to do either adequately," he said.

Kelsey said the number of mayor's court cases are increasing as the city expands. He said McFerin handles funds collected by the court and is two weeks behind in processing warrants.

The city already has some good programs in place to deter crime, he said, and it could increase offerings if McFerin becomes a full-time court employee.

Kelsey said the city has a diversion program in place for first-time offenders who are caught stealing small items or apprehended for minor drug-related offenses, such as a youth caught with a marijuana cigarette. If the offender accepts the terms of the diversion program and completes all the requirements, the crime can be expunged from his or her record, Kelsey said.

He said McFerin does not have enough time to properly monitor the diversion program, such as ensuring students stay in school and confirming that people who are required to be working have jobs.

If McFerin would become a full-time employee of Pataskala Mayor's Court, Kelsey said, he'd like to increase the city's follow-up on the diversion program and offer a similar program for first-time traffic offenders and juvenile first offenders.

City Councilman Mike Fox asked if McFerin is qualified to monitor the diversion program and any probationary requirements the court imposes.

Kelsey said she would not handle major offenses or anyone the court feels could cause trouble.

Kelsey said police officers have the right to send offenders to Licking County Municipal Court or Pataskala Mayor's Court.

Officers typically send people without a history of crimes who have committed minor misdemeanors to mayor's court, he said.

Law Director Rufus Hurst said the situation is similar for people in the diversion program, whom he said would not be "high security-risk cases."

Hurst further clarified probation by saying, "The magistrate would not put someone on probation we can't handle."

City Council President Dan Hayes said mayor's court serves the city by providing residents and visitors with "a less formal setting to resolve minor misdemeanors and traffic offenses and treats them like people instead of like offenses."

City Council is expected to hear the third reading of both ordinances at its next regular meeting, which would be Tuesday, Sept. 2. City Council will not meet Sept. 1 in observance of Labor Day.

 

Comments