North Court’s chickens have nowhere left to roost

4 towns are now acting to leave the North Hunterdon Court, after the court’s management got them all to sign on for another 5 years last year.

In a Sept. 6, 2007 Democrat article, the head of the North Hunterdon Court Committee, Tewksbury Mayor Shaun Van Doren said:

Mr. [Shaun] Van Doren said Mr. Corcodilos’ court would also face a challenge. “There are a lot of start-up expenses” in creating a court, he said. If Clinton Township can’t get others to share the costs, “I’m not sure their volume justifies” the expense, he said.

The Clinton Township Municipal Court processed more cases in the past year than the North Court handled for its 8 member towns with a staff 1/3 the size. The Clinton Township Court was designed to operate in the black by itself, without any other towns joining. In spite of former mayor Borkowski’s claims about the Clinton Township Court’s finances, the Township’s budget reveals the Township is not losing money. The same cannot be said of the court that Borkowski demanded we remain a part of.

In a Jan. 17 2008 article, N. Court Prosecutor David Bunevich said:

“Why did they tinker with something that was working well?”

It wasn’t working well. The only reason the North Court stayed afloat was because Clinton Township was absorbing the bulk of the losses. Today, those same losses are spread among the remaining towns, which are no more able to handle them than Clinton Township was. How did Van Doren and the North Court’s auditor, William Colantano, not realize they were driving 8 towns toward financial disaster?

Mr. Van Doren described this year’s budget [2008] as offering “major cost savings to all members.” But will the municipalities fare better this year than they did last year? “It will take all of 2008” to learn that, he said, because the costs each municipality pays increase as its share of the court’s revenue increases.

And that was always the problem. No one ever knew how much the North Court was making or spending until each year ended. Nor did they care, as long as Clinton Township was paying the bulk of outrageous expenses without recourse. That’s why tiny Lebanon Boro suddenly saw its court membership costs swell from $8,000 to over $80,000 per year. So much for Van Doren’s disingenuous claim about “major cost savings to all members.”

Former Clinton Township Mayor Tom Borkowski has pleaded with Mr. Corcodilos to reconsider his plans. “We don’t have to leave the court,” Mr. Borkowski said.

Turns out we did have to leave. The other towns now finally face the same losses Clinton Township did — without having Clinton Township to absorb them any longer.

When an operation does not know its costs or its revenues until the end of each year, it’s clear there is something very wrong with the structure of the operation. After spending more than a year trying to save the North Court, Clinton Township recognized that simple truth and decided to leave.

Former mayors Tom Borkowski and Shaun Van Doren unwisely used the court issue to make political hay. Now the hay has caught fire and the barn is burning down. For over a year, the “management team” of the North Court pretended the Court was fiscally sound when they knew better. What’s sad is how much this delay in facing reality will now cost so many towns. Was making political hay for a short time worth the pain this will cause all these towns?

The Administrative Office of the Court carefully oversaw the creation of the Clinton Township Municipal Court. Who at the AOC approved the restructuring of the North Court, after that court’s charter expired at the end of 2007 and it was re-formed (with a new name) in 2008? How long can New Jersey taxpayers afford mismanagement and political hay?

There seems to be no place left for the chickens to roost.

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