Acting justice necessary; village looks for better way to pay for position

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:12

    WARWICK - Earlier this month, the Village of Warwick eliminated the position of acting justice, saving $1,800 from its budget. Before they could celebrate their savings in a budget year where everything seems to be going up, the board learned that an acting justice is a necessary position. So, it's back to the drawing board for the village. Why did they bother to eliminate a position that paid just $1,800? "We saw there was no activity," said Mayor Michael Newhard, "so we decided to look into hiring someone on an hourly basis." Just what is an acting justice? Richard Farina is the village's only elected justice. If he is unavailable for court or an arraignment, someone else must be available to do his duties. It's the law—a municipality with only one justice must have an acting justice. Town Justice Peter Barlet has been the village's acting justice for years. Newhard said when he and the trustees were looking for cuts in the budget, they looked here because they noticed there was little, if any, activity on the monthly activity logs. The Warwick Advertiser had access to eight of the 12 monthly reports filed by Barlet last calendar year. Just one had activity—two hours. Barlet said that being an acting justice is a "very difficult job," noting he must be prepared to do the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "The job is enormous, when you think of the preparation involved," Barlet said. "It makes the most sense to use a town justice. I read all of the information from motor vehicle already." Barlet admits he only substitutes for Farina occasionally and held court once last year. Nonetheless, the village is looking into hiring someone on an hourly basis for the job. Newhard said he has looked at other municipalities, but none hire hourly. They all pay a stipend, whether the justice is used or not. He is awaiting advice from the New York Conference of Mayors to see if it is legal to hire the acting justice by the hour. Barlet is not concerned with the decision. He knows his expertise is there when the village needs it. As for the pay, "It doesn't even enter into it," he said. "I haven't gotten a raise since I don't remember when. It's never been about money."