Lake Station council looking at possibly abolishing city court

2012-12-03T19:55:00Z 2012-12-06T21:17:46Z Lake Station council looking at possibly abolishing city courtDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

LAKE STATION | The City Council is looking to possibly abolish city court by Jan. 1, City Attorney Ray Szarmach said.

Szarmach said he was directed by the City Council to draft an ordinance abolishing the court. The council will consider the ordinance at its 6 p.m. Thursday meeting in the municipal complex, 1969 Central Ave.

The main reason for abolishing the city court is due to falling revenues, City Council President Garry Szostek said.

"The court has been losing money for three to four years. ... It has to be discussed," Szostek said.

City Judge Chris Anderson, when reached for comment, said he wasn't aware of the ordinance being considered by the City Council.

Anderson said he planned to research the legality of the move including the status of his term which doesn't end until 2016.

"I don't think it's the right thing to do; it's a bad decision," Anderson said.

The City Council has also ordered an audit of city court finances, Szostek said.

According to state law, a City Council or Town Board can establish or abolish its city or town court every four years, Szarmach said.

"Municipalities are strapped for cash," Szarmach added.

Anderson and city officials have often been at odds this past year, including legal action Anderson initiated and won.

Anderson filed suit after the City Council on June 13 agreed to transfer two clerk positions from Anderson's supervision and budget.

The two positions included the previously fired stepdaughter of Mayor Keith Soderquist.

Anderson's supervision of the two clerk positions and the related budget were restored on Oct. 29 following an order issued by Lake Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins.

Anderson said city officials also have continued to criticize him for bringing in less revenue through court fees, claiming he has waived court fees. Anderson denies he has ever waived any court fees.

Rather, total revenue from court-related fees has been reduced because there have been fewer total cases, Anderson said.

Anderson believes the transfer of his two clerks was directly related to him firing the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, on June 7. Soderquist denies that allegation.

!~ Deborah Laverty, The Times

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