He can’t hear you

Former assistant DA tapped as justice won’t try cases he handled

KINDERHOOK — The Town Board — divided once again along party lines — appointed Columbia County Assistant District Attorney James Carlucci as the new town justice during an early morning session Friday, August 5.

The board voted 3 to 1 in favor of Mr. Carlucci, with Democratic councilman Peter Bujanow casting the dissenting vote. Republican council members Michael Kipp, Patsy Leader and Glenn Smith voted in favor of Mr. Carlucci. Town Supervisor Pat Grattan recused himself from the vote, saying that as an attorney and member of the Board of Supervisors, he had several conflicts-of-interest.

“We interviewed three very viable candidates,” said Mr. Kipp.

The other two candidates were David A. Dellehunt, village justice of Kinderhook, special counsel to the Town and Village Courts in the Third Judicial District and attorney; and Cailin Connors Brennan, an Appellate Court attorney.

“I’m looking for somebody who’s going to come in here, with their feet on the ground, who’s going to be available to us with a passion,” said Mr. Smith. “I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Carlucci is the person known to be most effective when it comes to dealing with this backlog that we have.”

Mr. Bujanow said he believed Mr. Dellehunt is the most qualified because he is already a village judge and is also responsible for training justices in a 27-county area.

“It’s my strong opinion, because Mr. Dellehunt is a sitting justice and has many years of experience on both sides of the bench — and he’s involved in the community is well,” said Mr. Bujanow.

Mr. Bujanow added he was concerned about Mr. Carlucci being able to deal with the current caseload of the court, because Mr. Carlucci will have to recuse himself from at least 20 cases that he was involved with as an assistant district attorney.

“That would diminish his ability to get in there, act quickly and get the caseload moving expeditiously, which was described as a desire by this board initially,” said Mr. Bujanow.

Mr. Carlucci replaces former Town Justice Archie Williams, who resigned effective July 1.

Although the board appointed a new justice, the state Office of Court Administration was prepared to pay for a temporary replacement at no cost to the town until a new justice is elected in November. The town could have saved about $6,250 in salary if it had waited until the newly-elected justice takes office in January 2012.

Councilman Kipp, who as deputy town supervisor led the justice discussions in place of Mr. Grattan, repeatedly said one reason to appoint a replacement was that the acting justice — Town of Austerlitz Justice Cheryl A. Roberts — was overloaded and wanted out of the position.

But after Mr. Kipp was quoted last week in the Hudson newspaper, the Register-Star, Judge Roberts sent a letter to Mr. Kipp and the Town Board, writing, “… you are under the misconception that I was unwilling or unable, due to time constraints, to address the backlog of cases in the Kinderhook Town Court.”

Judge Roberts said that through her efforts and with the assistance of many others, including Mr. Carlucci and Mr. Dellehunt, “… the substantial backlog in cases which existed when I was appointed in January 2011 has been significantly reduced,” adding, “In fact, had this backlog not been addressed, I suspect it would have been all but impossible for the Town Board to have appointed former ADA and now Justice Carlucci to the bench, as the number of pending cases with which he would have had a conflict of interest would have created an untenable and inefficient working environment for the Court.”

During Monday’s regular monthly Town Board meeting, the board:

*Received bids for two one-ton dump trucks, ranging in total price from $55,000 to $60,000

*Heard a request from the residents of Wildflower Road, asking the town to take over the private road. Mr. Grattan said he’ll ask the town engineer to examine the condition of the road

*Announced that a neighborhood watch information session will be held August 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall. The sheriff will have a representative there to explain how to form a neighborhood watch. This session is in response to noise and harassment complaints from residents of Church Street and the surrounding neighborhood in Niverville

*Voted to solicit resumes for a vacancy on the town Planning Board. Residents interested in being an alternate member of the Planning Board should submit resumes to the town clerk by close of business September 8

*Voted to support an effort by the Columbia County Historical Society to construct a walking trail from Lindenwald, the Martin Van Buren National Historical Site to the Van Alen House, a national historic landmark

*Voted to split the cost of a new radar for one of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars. The $3,000 cost will be shared by surrounding communities.

*Appointed Mr. Bujanow to head up the town’s efforts to redesign and update its website.

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