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Council against adding Juvenile Court judge

5/2/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — A majority of Summit County Council members are against adding an additional judge to the county’s Juvenile Court.

During Council’s April 29 meeting, Council adopted a resolution expressing its opposition to an amendment to Ohio House Bill 59, the state’s biennial budget bill, that would see the addition of a judge to the court. The vote was 9-2, with Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3) and Bill Roemer (R-at large) voting against it.

According to the resolution, state Reps. Anthony DeVitis (R-District 36) and Marilyn Slaby (R-District 41) spearheaded the idea to add a judge to work with current Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio. The House adopted the bill with the amendment.

The resolution states that the Republican lawmakers did not conduct a study to see if an additional judge is needed in the court. It also states that having an additional judge would cost the county about $300,000 annually, in addition to costs to renovate the court for the new judge and staff.

County Executive Russ Pry and Teodosio addressed Council on the issue. Pry noted that DeVitis and Slaby were invited to Council to explain the issue, but they said they could not attend.

Teodosio said she was unaware that a new judge could join the court until a reporter called her about the issue a few weeks ago.

“I was kind of blindsided by this,” she said.

The judge added that when deciding to add an additional judge, typically the Ohio Supreme Court would undertake a study of the court to look at its caseload and how timely cases are handled. That hasn’t happened, she said, but in statistics she obtained from the Supreme Court, it appears the court is doing a good job compared to similar-sized counties.

“Our numbers are exactly where they should be,” Teodosio said.

Overall, the caseload has decreased in the juvenile court over the past few years, and Teodosio said that is a trend happening nationwide due to the smaller population of young people.

Teodosio said she thinks adding an additional judge could initially cost the county around $495,000 because of the other employees that would have to be added to support the position.

While Teodosio and Pry could not say specifically what led to the idea of adding a judge, they noted that they’ve been told DeVitis was contacted by a foster parent concerned about the timeliness in concluding permanent custody cases in the court.

Council also heard from Fairlawn resident Julie Schafer on the issue. Schafer, an attorney, member of the Copley-Fairlawn City Schools Board of Education and candidate for Akron Municipal Court judge, said she was appearing on behalf of foster parents like herself who are frustrated with some aspects of the court.

“This is no bearing on the judge or the court; [Teodosio] does a great job,” Schafer said. “The complexity of cases has changed over the years.”

She added that it’s difficult to schedule hearings because of the many schedules that must be accommodated in custody cases, including the judges’.

Council members expressed appreciation to Schafer and others who serve as foster parents but asked why the concerns have not been raised before or brought to the attention of county officials and the judge.

“These are social and CSB [Summit County Children Services Board] issues that couldn’t be solved with 10 judges,” said Councilwoman Tamela Lee (D-District 5).

Councilman Tim Crawford (D-District 7) said he sympathized with the plight of children whose custody is in limbo, but the issue comes down to money.

“We are in a very difficult financial situation,” Crawford said. “I don’t know that [adding a judge] is going to move things along. In my district, we deal with a lot of foster care and CSB issues, and they have become very difficult to process.”

Pry said the bill is now before a Senate committee. Teodosio said she plans to testify before Senate members in an effort to get the additional judge removed from the bill before the full Senate votes on it.

In other business, Council heard first reading on a resolution enacting a 1.5 percent salary increase for nonbargaining classified and unclassified county employees. There was no discussion on the issue, which will be before the Personnel Committee May 6.

Council did approve, by a vote of 10-1, a resolution to authorize 2.5 percent salary increases for 14 nonbargaining employees in the Engineer’s Office. Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) voted against the measure, saying she was not comfortable with allowing one county office to offer raises. Officials from the Engineer’s Office have said they have the money in their budget for the pay increases.

Also during the meeting, Council adopted on first reading several pieces of legislation on the county’s summer jobs program for youths. The county will work with the Akron Urban League, Jobs for Ohio Graduates and Youth Employment for Success.

Interested youths or their parents, guardians or designees must call one of these providers, based on the ZIP code where they reside, to register for the program:

  • Youths residing in ZIP codes 44210, 44302, 44303, 44304, 44307, 44308, 44311, 44313, 44314, 44320, 44321, 44325 and 44333 should call 234-542-4176 to register with the Akron Urban League;
  • Youths residing in ZIP codes 44224, 44250, 44260, 44262, 44264, 44278, 44301, 44305, 44306, 44310 and 44312 should call 330-374-9477 to register with Jobs for Ohio Graduates; and
  • Youths residing in ZIP codes 44056, 44067, 44087, 44203, 44216, 44221, 44223, 44232, 44236, 44286, 44319, 44685 and 44720 should call 330-643-7401 to register with Youth Employment for Success.

County Council will meet for committee meetings May 6 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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