And since I was elected the same year as Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, I had this discussion with him on numerous occasions during his first two terms as mayor. Apparently, he doesn't remember too well.
The Judges and Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court work WITH (not for) the mayor and council for the City of Toledo, the mayor and council for the Village of Ottawa Hills and the three trustees in Washington Township. They are not a department of the City of Toledo, as Carty so often chooses to believe.
Additionally, Carty should remember that since the Clerk of Municipal Court doesn't work for him, he can't dictate that one of her staff members will assume responsibility for pre-trial services, something that the Clerk has no authority to do under Ohio Revised Code.
Furthermore, case law in Ohio is strongly on the side of the Judges and Clerk to determine their budget and to require the local municipalities to fund their budget.
But here's the kicker - that council and the mayor would be wise to remember: In determining the budget for the Clerk and Judges, the burden of proof is not with the Judges and Clerk. It is with the municipality - and the municipality, in denying the budgetary requests of these two entities, must prove that such budgets are 'unreasonable.' And that's a pretty high burden of proof for the city to undertake...especially when courts have ruled that the financial condition of the city is not an excuse for not funding the 'reasonable' requests of the Clerk and Court.
This gives the Judges and Clerk the ability - and obligation - to develop a budget that accommodates their statutory responsibilities but is also responsible in light of the economic condition of the region in which they are located. And there is nothing in the budgets requested by the TMC Judges and Clerk to suggest that they have done anything other than this.
Besides, if the Judges and Clerk file a mandamus action to force the city to fund their operations as they've determined, do you think another judge is actually going to find against them????
The Mayor's lack of understanding specificaly about the Toledo Municipal Court and NORIS (the entity providing computer systems for all criminal justice in the area), and the entire criminal justice system in general, is long-standing and well-known. But his spokesman's comments, reported in The Blade, are ridiculous, especially considering Carty:
"Brian Schwartz, spokesman for Mayor Finkbeiner, last night said Judge Kuhlman's statements about the destruction of the system have been an obvious and intentional exaggeration.
"I think it's a little hyperbole on Judge Kuhlman's part because the city law director wouldn't do anything to endanger the criminal justice system in the city," Mr. Schwartz said.
"While we have a great deal of respect for Judge Kuhlman, I think it is a bit of hyperbole."
(Aside - what does the city law director have to do with the mayor's budget recommendations or with running the Court or Clerk's Office????)
Neither Schwartz nor the Mayor understand the implications of their recommended cuts and they are dismissing the implications by trying to make Judge Kuhlman look bad in calling his claims 'hyperbole.' Most Toledoans will, however, think more about a pot calling a kettle black when it comes to the use of this word - and that's something both individuals should remember, as well.
I predict that the Judges and Clerk will get their budget requests. And then the bigger question will have to be discussed. If Carty's 2008 budget is only 1.7% over 2007, and they're recommending cutting $4.6 million from criminal justice costs, where, exactly, are they spending all our money?????
UPDATE: My Eye On Toledo column in next weekend's edition of the Toledo Free Press will focus on NORIS - what it does and why it's so important to Toledo and the entire Lake Erie West region.